Pork belly remains a very good-value cut of meat with masses of flavour, particularly when cooked with the bones. Try to get free-range pork or organic if at all possible as the flavours are much better.
The authentic Chinese version of this recipe would braise the meat in a casserole dish, but I think it works wonderfully well when married to the slow-roast method of cooking, when you put the meat into the oven well ahead of time at a low heat and allow it to cook away, infusing your kitchen with the great fragrances.
Serves six to eight as part of a number of dishes, or as a starter; serves four generous portions for dinner.
For the pork 2lbs belly pork, including the bones and the skin Flavouring ingredients 2 tsps five-spice powder (make your own if you can, or use a good-quality bought version)
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1in fresh ginger, finely chopped
½ fresh chilli, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp light soy sauce
Juice of half a lemon or 1oz rice wine/dry sherry
1 tsp honey for the Asian Salad
Any crisp raw vegetable can be added to this, depending on what you have available, but a particularly good mix would be (to serve six with the pork dish):
½ medium cucumber
1 large or two medium carrots
Handful of beansprouts (only use if very fresh)
¼ head white or pale-green cabbage
1 yellow or red pepper, finely sliced
1 red onion or two shallots, cut into rings For the dressing 1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsps good groundnut (peanut) oil
Juice of half lime, or up to a whole lime if it isn't very juicy
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
¼ fresh chilli (optional), finely chopped
½ tsp cumin powder
1 tsp good honey
1 tsp tamari or other soya sauce
1 tsp apple cider vinegar (if you can get it) adds a great zing
For the pork
1 Mix all the flavouring ingredients together and taste to ensure a balance of flavours, before rubbing all over the pork joint (except for the skin). Leave to infuse for 15 minutes or longer if you've time.
2Heat the oven to 150°C. Sprinkle some sea salt on the skin of the pork, then place on an oven tray, skin-side up, and cook gently for three to four hours. Check regularly and add some extra liquid to the base of the tray if the marinade mix gets too dry and starts to burn. Bring up the temperature to about 200°C for the last 20 minutes to crisp the skin.
3Remove the pork from the oven and leave to sit for at least 20 minutes. If the skin hasn't crisped sufficiently, then remove from the rest of the joint -- it should come away quite easily -- and put back into the oven for a few minutes, or under the grill. It will crisp very quickly under the grill (in 10-20 seconds), so watch it carefully as it could not only burn but could catch fire quite easily.
4Cut generous slices using the rib bones as a guide and serve with the remaining marinade juices.
For the Asian salad: preparation
Cucumber: Using a potato peeler, remove the skin then, still using the peeler, cut long, thin slices the full length of the cucumber. Stop when you get to the seeds in the middle -- don't use the mushy bit in the middle!
Carrot: Again, peel the carrot if the skin is a bit coarse, then use the peeler to produce long, thin strips. Keep going until the peeler gets difficult to use, then eat the remaining core of the carrot -- its good for you!
Cabbage: Slice into thin slices then cut cross-ways to create small, bite-sized pieces (or you can whiz it in a food processor).
- Add all of the prepared vegetables to a bowl, except for the onion.
- Make up the dressing by mixing together all of the ingredients; check the taste, and if it is either too bitter or too sweet add extra lime or honey. You want a taste that is well balanced between the two.
- Mix the onion slices with the dressing and leave to sit for a couple of hours, or up to a day. If you don't have the time for this, don't worry -- it's just that the contrast between the semi-pickled onion and the other flavours is great. This is not essential, however.
- Mix all of the salad ingredients and the dressing together and serve alongside the slow-roasted belly of pork.