Who doesn’t love pork belly? Okay, there might be a few of you out there, but for the rest of us pork belly is a luxurious treat. After all, what’s not to love about the combination of moist, succulent meat and crispy crackling! It makes my mouth water just thinking about it!
Unfortunately, I rarely get to savour pork belly and while it’s readily available at the supermarket, it’s pretty darned expensive. Just occasionally though I find a piece for under NZD$10 and treat myself. And, that’s what happened this last week.
I have to admit to not doing overly well with cooking pork belly. I have never been able to get both tender, flavoursome meat AND crispy cracking at the same time. I’d almost given up actually. Then I spotted this well received recipe from Taste.com.au. What intrigued me was that the meat was both roasted and braised in milk, a method apparently traditionally used in Italy.
Not only was the meat beautifully tender and juicy, but thanks to being steeped in a milk bath studded with garlic, fennel seeds and sage leaves, it was also incredibly tasty. In addition, the crackling was just as you’d expect it to be – deliciously salty and crisp with a sinfully unctuous layer of fat beneath.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that a few reviewers found the crackling fell a little short of perfect and the consensus was that it was most likely to do with oven temperatures and time. You do need a really hot oven and you may need longer than the stated time. But never fear. Should you find, once the meat is cooked, that the crackling isn’t quite there yet, try this out: cut the crackling (along with most of the fat) off the meat and return it to the oven for a further 10 or so minutes at a very high baking heat, or alternatively the grill (broil) setting. Easy peasy. Enjoy!
- 1.5kg (3.3lb) pork belly
- 2 teaspoons oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon salt flakes
- 1 litre (33 fl oz / 2 pints) milk
- 1 whole head garlic, halved (I used several unpeeled cloves)
- 4-6 sage leaves
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- Preheat oven to 240C (460F) or 220C (430F) fan-forced.
- If not already scored, score skin with a sharp knife making sure you don't cut down to the meat. Place pork in a roughly 30cm x 25cm (12 x 10 inch) metal baking tray (it must NOT be glass or it will shatter). Alternatively, use a throw away foil dish.
- Rub pork all over with oil. Rub salts into scored skin, making sure you rub it into the scored cuts. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until skin starts to blister.
- Reduce oven to 180C (360F) or 160C (320F) fan-forced. Pour milk around pork (be careful of steam and to not pour any milk over the skin). Add garlic, sage and seeds to milk. Roast for 1 hour.
- Increase oven to 260C (500F) or 240C (460F) fan-forced. Roast for 10 minutes or until skin is blistered and puffed all over. Remove from oven. Carefully lift pork out of braising liquid and transfer to a plate. Stand loosely covered with foil for 10 minutes before carving (you'll want to wipe away milk curds from around the meat before serving).
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Natural lighting