I don’t think you’re ready for this belly

‘Cause this belly’s just too delicious for ya babe.

This is one cut of meat that really can’t do any wrong. Firstly, it’s incredibly economical. Why? Because it’s kind of fatty. But that’s okay since it’s the fat that keeps the meat so meltingly tender when cooked low and slow, and that is what we want! Besides you’re not under any obligation to eat the fat if you don’t want to. No contract to sign here. Let it do it’s thing in the oven, then send it packing and what you will be left with is a mountain of tender, juicy meat. Another perk of belly pork is that it also comes fully equipped with an earth shatteringly crunchy layer of crackling if cooked correctly, but that’s pretty easy to accomplish and I’ll show you how.

Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Fennel & Coriander Seed Crackling

(Serves 4-6, depending on the size of your piece of pork)

3 teaspoons (1 Tablespoon) coriander seeds

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 nice thick piece of pork belly, skin scored

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method

Preheat your oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.

Put the coriander and fennel seeds into a mortar and grind together with the pestle until crushed. It doesn’t have to be ground to a very fine powder though, just pound it enough to release the nice aromas from the spices.

Belly Pork 1

If you haven’t already had the meat scored by your butcher you can do it easily yourself so long as you have a very sharp knife. Stanley knives work well here, but just be careful not to cut through the meat itself. The aim is to make long cuts only through the skin as this helps with the crackling, makes it easier to break into pieces at the end and means the spices can cling more readily to the surface which simply adds to the flavour! Rub the skin with salt, pepper and a little more than half of the cracked seeds, getting the seasoning right into all the cracks.

Scatter the remaining seeds into a roasting tin and put the meat on top. Put into the preheated oven and roast for 30 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 180C/Gas Mark 4 and cook for about 1 1/2 hours, until the juices run clear when the meat is pierced with a skewer and the skin has crackled to a beautiful golden brown. The reason for initially cooking it at such a high temperature is to give the crackling a good kick start, but if you don’t think it has crisped up enough at the end of the total cooking time, then just bang up the heat again and put the pork back in, checking it every few minutes until it has crisped up properly.

Leave to rest, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or so.

Remove the crackling from the pork before carving, then cut the joint into thick slices and break the crackling up into portions.

Belly Pork 2

I served the belly pork with some plain brown jasmine rice and a nice fresh shredded salad of beetroot, red cabbage, red onion, toasted cashew nuts and coriander and dressed it with a mixture of rice vinegar, a little soya sauce, mirin, finely chopped red chilli, sesame oil, sugar and a small pinch of salt. This shredded salad (or ‘slaw’, if you will) provided a lovely crunchy, zingy contrast to the rich pork which was most welcomed.

Belly Pork 3 Salad

Belly Pork 4 Salad

 

Belly pork is also wonderfully versatile, so can be served in lots of different ways. With rice, as I have done here, but even more classically, with mashed potatoes, apple sauce and steamed greens or cabbage.

The deciding factor though, is that even Destiny’s Child agree with me about how good this is. Let me refresh your memory.. “Spotted me a tender thang“, “Lookin’ hot, Smellin’ good“?! They’re talking about PORK! And all that talk about ‘jelly‘? Well, that’s just fat. Obvs.

Either way, it is just too good to not give it a whirl. Go on, do it for Beyoncé.

They were right you know, I don’t think I can handle how tasty this is. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Absolute Ambrosia

Before you start thinking I’m about to give you a recipe with a method of,

‘1. Grab a tin opener.

2. Open the tin.

3. Serve. Enjoy your bowl of rice pudding folks!’

I must stop you in your tracks. This pudding could most definitely be defined as ambrosia, in the ‘food of the gods’ sense only though, as it has way too much personality (and rice for that matter) to be affiliated with that from the can. In saying that I really don’t mind the tinned stuff too much but when compared with this toothsome beauty it suddenly becomes redundant.

Rice Pudding 1

There are days where only a bowl of warm homemade rice pudding will do and this one ticks all of the boxes. The aroma that filled my kitchen whilst making this was so heavenly I struggle to find the words to do it justice. This coconut rice pudding, infused with pandan and just a hint of vanilla, was subtle yet somehow the flavours were distinct enough to evoke the beautiful flavours I have tasted whilst visiting family in Malaysia. Pandan is a tropical plant which is used widely throughout Southeast Asian cuisine as a flavouring or, when blended with a little water, a vibrant green food colouring. It can be used in either sweet or savoury dishes and is complemented wonderfully by coconut. I find this recipe works incredibly well using sushi rice, not only just in keeping with the other asian ingredients I have included here but mainly because the grains are lovely and plump, making it texturally very satisfying to eat.

Rice Pudding 2

Coconut Pandan Rice Pudding (Serves 6)

2 Tablespoons sunflower oil

200g (7 oz) sushi rice or regular short-grain rice

1.25 litres (44 Fl oz/5 cups) full fat milk

250ml (1 cup) coconut milk

1 pandan leaf, folded in two and knotted

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or a vanilla pod

60g caster (superfine) sugar (2oz)

Method

Heat the oil in a heavy based pan then add the rice and gently stir to warm it and coat the grains. Add the milk, coconut milk, knotted pandan leaf and vanilla bean paste (if using a vanilla pod just split it in two, scrape out the sticky black seeds with the back of the knife and add it to the pot along with the split pod). Bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring quite often so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Add the caster sugar, then let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes stirring frequently as before until the rice is tender and has a nice thick consistency.

This is delicious eaten warm, although it also makes a mighty tasty breakfast the following day with a healthy spoonful of jam! Although I’m usually a raspberry jam kind of girl I opted for a high fruit strawberry jam this time around.
Next time I might be tempted to try pineapple for a more authentic combination, although any type will do really depending on your preference and what you happen to have on hand!

Rice Pudding 3