I had something of a result this week. I'd budgeted a certain amount for the leccy bill and it turned out to be only half what I thought it was going to be. So I was able to push the boat out a bit foodstuff-wise.
And one of the treats I allowed myself was a kilo of glorious Gloucester Old Spot pork belly, courtesy of Marky Market, whom God preserve.
I thought that such a fine chunk of meat demanded to be cooked and served relatively unadorned, to be the star of the show. And it most certainly was. The layer of fat between the skin and the flesh was just the right thickness to flavour the meat (as opposed to some you get where the fat is the major element of the joint) and rendered off during the cooking to leave a slab of tender juicy meat. It wasn't cheap - £9 per kilo - compared to what you might find in a supermarket, but it was worth every penny.
I didn't fancy going the gravy and potatoes route particularly, so I came up with this salad as an accompaniment. It worked really well. I'll be making it again soon (minus the crackling) - it would, for example, make a superb partner for a plate of cheese.
I still fancied a small carb hit with the meal. There was some tomato sauce, heavy on the garlic, left over in the fridge, so I simply stirred in some cooked haricots and chopped parsley and drizzled over a little olive oil.
Verdict: the second result of the week.
roast pork belly
1kg pork belly, skin scored
fine sea salt
Score the skin of the joint all over (your butcher will do this for you). Pour boiling water over the skin and then drain and pat dry with kitchen roll. This is to open up the scored skin and so help you get great crackling. Refrigerate, loosely covered with kitchen roll. Preheat your oven to 250C/230C fan or its highest setting. Rub the flesh with the olive oil. Rub all over with salt and pat on the thyme leaves. Place on a rack in a roasting tray (so the fat can drain off) and roast for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to 170C/150C fan and cook for about an hour and a half. Remove from the oven and switch the grill to high. Separate the crackling from the meat and loosely wrap the latter in foil to rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, scrape off the excess fat from the underside of the crackling. Flatten the crackling out with the flat of a cleaver or similar and place on a piece of foil under the grill, skin side down. Watch constantly - it'll only take a minute or two to brown. Flip the crackling over and now watch as the skin turns golden and - hey presto - puffs up as if by magic.
crackling, apple + chicory salad
1 small head chicory, leaves halved widthways
1/2 crisp apple (I used a gala), thinly sliced
1 small banana shallot, thinly sliced diagonally
cream + mustard dressing (see below)
small handful of toasted walnuts, chopped
crackling from roast, chopped
salt + black pepper
Put the chicory, apple and shallots in a bowl and toss with the dressing. Scatter over the crackling and walnut pieces and season with a little salt and black pepper.
cream + mustard dressing
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 overflowing tbsp double cream
a little drizzle of honey
salt + black pepper
Spoon the first four ingredients into a small jar. Drizzle in a little honey and shake the jar vigorously. Taste - you only want a hint of sweetness - and season.