This weekend we have the fattest, juiciest, tastiest Gloucester Old Spot pork belly we ever did see; thick, plenty of meat and just the right amount of fat for good crackling. And a little bird tells us that we're set for some sunshine this weekend...BBQ pork belly ribs, anyone?
We've got these rare breed bellies in all of our shops - fresh from the farm - and a couple of The Ginger Pig team have been inspired to create something special.
Jason in our Moxon Street (Marylebone) shop has made a stuffed roast by taking the belly off the bone, stuffing it with pork, apricots, sage and lemon zest and rolling it into a neat roasting joint (see below!). The skin is scored for perfect crackling, and the joint can be cooked in the same way as our recipe for perfect pork belly below.
Gemma, our new chef at Askew Road, has been experimenting with homemade brioche rolls, and will be roasting pork belly low and slow to serve in them, along with a Mexican-style salsa.
If you're more of a DIY type of cook, here are our tips for getting the most out of your roast.
Perfect roast pork belly
Everyone has their own secret to achieving the all important crisp crackling and unctuous, giving pork. Ours is very simple and not really a secret at all; just a few rules for tasty results. This method - hot and fast then low and slow - will work perfectly for Jason's rolled roast too, available in our Marylebone shop this weekend.
1. Make sure the meat is at room temperature before cooking - and this is true of almost any cut and animal. If cold flesh is exposed to a hot temperature it will contract and can become very tough, and the chill means that the meat will cook more unevenly. For a pork belly joint, take it out of the fridge at least an hour before cooking.
2. Turn it up! Get the oven nice and hot - 220C or gas mark 7.
3. Wipe the joint with some kitchen towel to ensure that it's dry - pay particularly close attention to the skin. If you haven't asked your butcher to do so (advisable!) score the skin, being careful not to go too deep with the knife.
4. Rub a little salt into the skin just before you put the meat in the oven. Doing this in advance draws moisture out of the fat, which can lead to brittle crackling or - even worse - soggy skin.
5. In a roasting tray, place the belly on a cushion of vegetables; onions, fennel, carrots, shallots and garlic all work well. Add any aromatics and spices you might like - rosemary, thyme, star anise, bay leaves, cinnamon, saffron, cumin, paprika, cloves...whatever you fancy (but not all at once).
6. Put the tray with the vegetables and pork into the oven, and roast for 25 minutes.
7. Once the 25 minutes is up, turn the oven right down to 150C or gas mark 2. Add a splash - around 100ml - of water to the bottom of the tray (don't pour it over the skin) and roast for three hours, adding a little more water if the vegetables get too sticky.
8. Let the joint rest for 10 minutes before serving, then dig in.