Roast Pork has much to recommend it – it’s universally popular amongst your carnivore friends and family, it’s reasonably priced throughout the country and, provided you follow a couple of important steps, it provides sensational results every time.
And by sensational, I mean perfectly crispy crackling sitting on top of succulent and tender meat. With so much flavour and wow factor going on, roast pork does best when it’s served simply, alongside some great veg, some apple sauce, a fennel or white bean purée, some well-made gravy. It really doesn’t need a lot of adornment.
All this, and it practically cooks on its own, leaving you valuable time to get on with other things. Like chatting with your friends for example.
This dish was the main course at my recent Good Friday lunch, following on from the beetroot and apple salad. With nine people to feed, I bought two pieces of pork belly, each weighing about 1.2kg – there was plenty to go round. I bought my pork from the fabulous Jonai Farms, and they were happy to deliver to my home the day before (in exchange for a coffee and a chat). Yes it was pricey but oh my goodness, the flavour, the tenderness of the meat! These are ethically raised animals who have a wonderful and happy life and the care and attention paid to their welfare translates as sweet and succulent pork.
I haven’t eaten roast pork for a good year or so and so to me, the cost was worth it. I like the way the Jonai family – and other ethical meat farmers throughout the country – respond to the ethical conundrum of our times. How do we raise our animals in a caring and happy environment and what price are we, as consumers, willing to pay for ethical farm practices? If it means that budget-wise, I will eat more vegetable based meals and less meat throughout the year because that’s all I can afford, I’m willing to do my bit. It places pork rightly where it should be – as the focus of attention for a celebratory occasion, not as a drive through item with your next takeaway purchase.
All in all, it’s (tasty) food for thought.
Serves 4 to 6 people
1 piece pork belly about 1 to 1.2 kg; sea salt; 2 tbsp oil; 2 large onions, peeled and sliced in half; 2 small leeks, washed and cut into 5cm lengths; 2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed
Preheat oven to 220°C.
If your butcher has not already done so, score the rind with a sharp knife every 2cm to create long strips. Rub the rind with oil, then sprinkle with a good pinch or two of sea salt.
Place the onions, cut side down, into the base of a shallow roasting dish. Position the leeks in amongst the onions. Cut the fennel into four or six wedges and place them in amongst the other vegetables. Place the pork belly, skin side up, on top of the onions and fennel in place of a trivet.
Bake in centre of oven for 25 mins then turn down the heat to 160°C (fan forced oven). As the meat cooks the juices will run out and bake the onions and vegetables as well.
After a further one hour to one hour fifteen minutes, remove the meat from the tray and rest it on a hot platter. Carefully slice off the crackling – it should be bubbly and incredibly crisp – and cut off the fatty residue from the underside of the crackling. Return the cracking to the warm oven to stay crisp. Cover the meat with foil and let rest for ten minutes while you make a gravy. Remove the leeks and fennel and set aside.
Onion Gravy: Use the roasting dish in which you have cooked the meat. Remove all but two tablespoons of oil from the pan. Remove the onions, chop them finely and set aside. Over a medium heat, add ½ cup red wine and de-glaze the pan, scraping up the pan bits as you go. Add a teaspoon of thyme leaves, and 1 ½ cups water and stir until it boils, then reduce to a simmer. If you want to thicken it up, you could add a slurry of cornflour, that is, 1 teaspoon of cornflour mixed with 2 teaspoons of water and stirred well.
When thickened slightly, add the onions back to the pan and season to taste. Serve immediately.
Fennel and Leek Purée: Place the roasted fennel and leeks in a blender and blitz for a minute or two until completely smooth. Add enough water (about ½ to 1 cup) to make a thick sauce. Season to taste with a little black pepper. Return the sauce to a small saucepan and re-heat it gently.
To serve: Remove the foil and slice the pork belly into thick 4-5cm slices across the length of the belly. Remove the crackling from the oven and using a chef’s knife, whack the back of the knife with the heel of your hand to crack through the crackling into delicious shards.
Spoon some fennel purée onto the plate and place a piece of pork on top with some crackling shards over the top of the meat. Either spoon some gravy round the side or let everyone help themselves to gravy at the table.
$15.00 for four people, with all the trimmings, depending on size of meat. (For organic and ethically raised produce, the price goes up to $30.00)