Pork belly is one of the most accommodating cuts of meat, and a doddle to cook. Slow and low, basically, is the only tip you need – low temperature and a long cooking time. Braising – oven-roasted in a liquid bath of stock, beer, wine or ginger ale – is one of the most popular ways to prepare pork belly, especially in the Far East. I usually go the ginger ale route, but for this particular recipe I tried Carmien Tea’s ginger and lemongrass infused rooibos tea. Results: delicious!
Butcher Salvin Hirschfield stocks and delivers excellent quality pork belly in Cape Town, which I usually order rindless, in 1.2 – 1.4 kg pieces. Before roasting, rub your chosen spices and seasonings well into the meat, and let stand at room temperature for an hour or two. Prepare a deep roasting tin – preferably with a lid – by placing a layer of roughly chopped celery, carrot and onion and put the pork on top of that. Pour in enough liquid to come halfway up the side of the meat, cover with lid or foil, and roast in the oven for approximately 3 and 1/2 hours. It’s advisable to check the roast from time to time, so that it doesn’t cook dry. Add a cup or more liquid if this is the case. Slow and low roasting allows most of the fat to be rendered out, and turns the meat deliciously tender while remaining succulent. Once the meat is tender enough, I lift it out of the cooking juices and place it on a wire rack inside the roasting dish, to roast uncovered for about 30 – 40 minutes on each side to crisp up. Turn the oven temperature up to 180 C for this final blast of heat.
Citrus, fennel and ginger make perfect flavour mates for pork. The ginger ale is quite sweet, so if you’re not keen on that, simply use beer, wine or stock. In this recipe, I used strongly brewed Carmien Tea ginger & lemongrass infused rooibos – about 3 teabags per 500 ml boiling water. Let cool before adding to roasting tin. Just remember that stock is salty and will become even more so as it reduces, so season with a light hand if you’re using it. The lovely fragrant tangerines impart a fantastic flavour to the pork and sauce – you can also use oranges if you want. Chinese black vinegar has a pungent, almost smoky taste that lends intriguing depth to the sauce. If you can’t get any, you may substitute with a mixture of Worcester sauce and brown vinegar, although it won’t be quite the same, of course.
The recipe couldn’t be simpler and is really little more than a description:
PORK BELLY WITH CITRUS, FENNEL AND GINGER
Serves 4 – 6
1.2 – 1.4 kg pork belly, rind removed by your butcher
2 T (30 ml) dry ginger
2 T (30 ml) whole fennel seeds
1 T (15 ml) ground fennel
2 T (30 ml) BBQ spice mix
1 large peeled onion, 1 large carrot, 1 stick celery, all roughly chopped up
1 small fennel bulb (or half a large one) and stems, roughly chopped up
4 – 6 tangerines, cut in half
1/4 cup (60 ml) soy sauce
1/4 cup (60 ml) Chinese black vinegar (Chinkiang brand, sold at any Oriental grocery store)
6 – 8 Bay leaves
– if you can’t get Chinese black vinegar, mix 1/4 cup Worcestersauce with 1 T (15 ml) brown grape vinegar
Salt and ground black pepper
Approx. 500 ml ginger ale or strong Carmien Tea ginger & lemongrass infused rooibos (3 bags per 500 ml)
- Mix the ginger, fennel seeds and ground fennel, BBQ spice and rub all over your pork belly. Cover with a clean dishtowel and let it stand for 1 – 2 hours at room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 200 C. Place the chopped onion, carrot and celery on the base of a large roasting tin, preferably one with a lid. Put the pork belly on top of the vegetables and arrange the fennel and tangerine halves around the meat. Season and scatter bay leaves over and drizzle with the soy sauce and black vinegar.
- Pour the ginger ale or other liquid carefully around the meat, cover tin with heavy-duty tin foil or a lid, and place in the oven. Cook at 200 C for 30 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 160 C. Cook for another 3 hours, checking from time to time that the liquid hasn’t all evaporated. Add another cup or two of liquid if this is the case.
- Once the pork belly is tender enough to your liking, remove the roasting dish from the oven and take the foil or lid off. Lift the meat our out of the roasting juices, place on a wire rack, and return to the roasting dish. Turn the oven temperature to 180 C and roast the pork belly for 30 – 40 minutes, then turn it over and roast another 30 – 40 minutes to crisp up the exterior. Remove from oven and let stand for 20 minutes before carving, or pulling the meat apart using two forks. Strain the cooking juices and reduce over high heat in a saucepan until slightly thickened. Adjust seasoning to taste. Pour over the meat and serve.
Butcher Salvin Hirschfield contact details firstname.lastname@example.org