Sunday 21 January 2018

Forkful's easy suppers: Barbecue pork belly

Barbecue pork belly. Photo: Mark Duggan
Barbecue pork belly. Photo: Mark Duggan

Aoife McElwain

Barbecue, or cooking over fire, is thought to be the world's oldest form of cooking. When it comes to the sauce that we slather over barbecued meats, it's equally hard to pinpoint its origins. Barbecue sauce is most associated in the Western world with the Deep South in the United States, though there is evidence that the mustard-based South Carolina barbecue sauce was brought to the New World from German settlers, hinting at the age and untraceable provenance of such sauces.

Elsewhere in the world, Chinese cuisine has their hoisin sauce while South America have their asado or chimichurri sauces, which also act as a moistening agent for barbecued meats.

In this week's recipe, we're sharing a very simple barbecue sauce that uses ketchup as its base. We brought the barbecue indoors by cooking these pork belly strips in the oven but they would be even more delicious cooked straight on a hot barbecue, with the same method of cooking them off first without sauce and then dousing in sauce before another grilling.

As accompaniments for barbecue pork go, it's pretty hard to beat sweet potato fries and homemade coleslaw. I love a good sweet potato fry. Grab a couple of large sweet potatoes and slice them into strips, leaving the skins on.

Put them in a roasting tray and drizzle with plenty of oil. Sprinkle generously with smoked paprika, about half a tablespoon, and mix well before roasting at about 200 degrees celsius for 30 minutes, or until cooked through and starting to caramelise.

It's also very easy to make your own coleslaw, and it is often tastier than the mayo-heavy shop-bought variety.

I like using yoghurt in carrot and red cabbage coleslaws, instead of cloying mayo, adding black mustard seeds and a dash of acidic apple vinegar.

Barbecue pork belly

Serves 2

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 55 minutes


For the pork belly:

500g pork belly strips

Olive oil



For the barbecue sauce:

250g ketchup

125ml water

60ml apple cider vinegar

5 tablespoons light brown sugar

Pinch of fresh ground black pepper

1/2 tablespoon ground mustard powder

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

To serve:

Sweet potato paprika fries



1. Pre-heat your oven to 220c/200c fan/gas mark 6. Begin by patting the pork belly strips dry with kitchen paper towel. Place them in a roasting tray, and brush each strip with a little oil. Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven on the top shelf for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make your barbecue sauce by mixing together the ketchup, water, apple cider vinegar, sugar, black pepper, mustard powder, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Give it a taste and adjust for more sugar or Worcestershire sauce, as you see fit. At this point, you could prepare your sweet potatoes for roasting too (see my basic recipe in the intro).

3. Take the pork belly strips out of the oven and cover in the barbecue sauce. You want the strips to be covered but not drowning in the sauce, so don't use all of it. Instead, you should hold some back to serve as a dipping sauce. Put the pork belly back into the oven for another 25 minutes, roasting until the barbecue sauce is sticky and the pork is crispy and cooked through.

4. Serve the pork belly strips with a bit of extra barbecue sauce on the side. Add to your table a bowl of homemade coleslaw, a platter of sweet potato fries and perhaps some corn on the cob or an assortment of other salads.

This week's storecupboard essential:

Ketchup: It is remarkably easy to make your own BBQ sauce using regular old ketchup as the base ingredient. There are plenty of great ketchups out there, and the better the ketchup is at your starting point, the tastier your BBQ sauce will be at the finish line. Try TMT's artisan Irish Smoked Ketchup ( made in Tipperary.

Irish Independent

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