There aren’t too many meals out there which can bring a grown man to his knees. Though one of these, might just be a Pork Belly roast.
Glistening jewels of juicy pork, braised apples & fennel and the crisp crunch of the snap, crackle & pop when you bite into the perfect pork crackling. Ok, it’s enough to bring even me to my knees!
It’s a simple love story of a Pork Belly married to some sweet apples & braised fennel.
Lovingly put to bed for an hour or so. After which, the said ingredients magically meld and become a sweet heaven of caramelised braised and crackly pork and golden mass of goodness!
Tell me, is this the kind of meal that could bring you to your knees too…
For me the secret to perfect pork crackling comes from salt, salt and more salt! Plus hot searing heat in the latter stages, see here for a previous recipe with an asian soy glaze.
Time: 3-4 hrs, the resting time for this roast is crucial (as with most pieces of meat) I’ve detailed the reasoning below.
Pork belly, (I’ve used a piece weighing 1.4kg)
4 med size apples, (mine are red delicious varieties)
A whole bulb of fennel, (med size)
2 brown onions,
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper,
Serving suggestions: frisée lettuce, boiled chat potatoes with parsley, this
sauerkraut recipe or steamed green beans would suffice.
You’ll also need a large fry pan, roasting tray, some paper towel, vegetable peeler. A sturdy wooden spoon, a sharp knife, kitchen timer and a long pair of tongs as you’ll be doing a fair amount of poking!
Preheat the oven to 160C or (320F)
The first step is to pat the pork skin dry. Score the skin in a diamond pattern and salt generously. I used at least 3 tpsp rubbing the salt generously on top and right into the cracks.
Leave to rest whilst you prepare the veg and apples, (small pools of moisture should begin to form on top,)
Peel the apples, leaving them whole and segment the fennel. Remove the skin from the onions and quarter,
Toss with the lemon juice and set aside in a large baking dish or pan,
Your next step is to pan fry the pork belly in the large frying pan skin side down with a little olive oil. This is to render some of the fat, (you can tip it off and reserve for use another day)
Arrange the pork belly skin side up over the quartered apple, onion and fennel and roast for 45mins at 160C. Using those large tongs rotate the pork belly in the pan to ensure even cooking.
Continue to cook at this moderate temperature and set the timer for another 35- 45 mins. During this time a small amount of fat should be pooling in the bottom ( which you can use to baste the apples and veg)
The all important step for achieving the best crackling:
After an hour & 1/2 is up, turn on the grill (or your oven to it’s highest temperature 240C-464F) and continue to cook the pork belly for at least 20-30 minutes.
The aim is to force that last bit of steam out and crisp up that crackling,
Check the pan regularly and rotate the pork if needed, I continued to cook mine on high for at least half an hour until golden brown all over.
By now the skin should be lovely and puffy and any excess fat & juices should have rendered beautifully.
Switch off your grill or oven and rest the pork inside for at least half an hour or a full hour if possible, (allows the meat to relax resulting in juicy, tender meat.)
(Hint) I use my bread making trick of wedging a wooden spoon in the door handle to keep it ajar. This allows the excess steam to escape but continues to keep the meat warm whilst it rests. Warm meat and better crackling!
Lastly, serve the pork belly along with your choice of greens and the braised fennel, apples and onion on the side.