Monday 17 March 2008
Recipe: Pork Belly slow-roast with Garlic & Star Anise
Not the most fashionable cut of meat, I find Pork Belly absolutely delicious, as well as being pretty economical. This long and slow method of cooking reduces it to a consistency where you can practically eat it with a spoon.
This recipe was derived - distantly - from Heston Blumenthal's way of slow-cooking beef over a period of 24 hours or more. His version was the subject of some debate on the Today Programme, a year or so ago - and although I didn't consider for a second clogging up the stove with something for that length of time, the cooking method and the way he talked about the process gave pause for thought.....and this recipe was the end result. Not only is it splendid once it reaches the plate, but the smell which permeates the house as it cooks is pretty special, as well!
Necessity being the mother of invention, there's also a version of it which came about when, at the critical moment, the absence of both Vermouth and Star Anise were discovered, and so Port and Cardamom were used instead. A completely different - but equally delicious - dish emerged at the end of the process.
Ingredients: 1 kg Pork Belly; 8 cloves Garlic; 6 heads of Star Anise; half a cup of Vermouth, or Dry White Wine; Oil; Salt & Pepper.
1. Remove the skin from the Pork Belly, and trim away from the meat any excess fat. Reserve the skin for making crackling later.
2. Take a pan which has a close fitting lid - I use a small sauté pan - and smear the bottom with a little Oil, just enough to prevent the meat from sticking as it cooks. Place the Pork Belly in the pan, along with the Garlic and the Star Anise. Add the Vermouth (or wine) and bring to a simmer on the stove.
3. Put the lid in place, and reduce the heat to a level where it simmers very very gently. In practice, I actually put the pan on top of a heat diffuser to reduce the heat to an appropriately low level. Keep it at a gentle simmer for about two hours, checking from time to time to see that the liquid hasn't all gone (If the liquid needs topping up along the way, do so either with more Vermouth or with water). Turn the meat two or three times in the course of cooking, to ensure that it cooks evenly.
5. At the end of the cooking process, move the pan off the heat, and allow the meat to cool down. Remove any liquid fat from the pan, season well with Salt & Pepper, and draw the rib bones out from the meat (they should pull out easily from the cooked meat). Discard the Star Anise.
6. Make the Crackling: Smear the Pork Skin with Oil, and sprinkle generously with Salt. Put it on a baking tray, in a 180 degree C oven for an hour (longer if necessary). Once ready, cut it up with scissors and keep warm until needed.
7. To serve, gently re-heat the Pork for twenty minutes or so, then slice thinly and accompany each portion with a couple of Garlic cloves and some crackling.