My first foray into the wonderful world of slow roasted pork belly…

My name is Jo and I’m a pork belly addict! There…I’ve said it! don’t they say that admitting to your addiction is the first step of recovery…in this instance however, maybe I don’t want to recover! If I’m presented with a menu containing a pork belly dish, I get tunnel vision and all the other (probably delicious) dishes pale into insignificance! 

I’ve never attempted cooking pork belly myself…that is until last weekend! I’ve been house sitting for some friends in Cambridge and in my mission for wholesome domesticity I invited my parents and brother over for Sunday dinner and decided to cook them ‘slow-roasted pork belly with the sweetest braised fennel’ a la Jamie Oliver.

I biked over to the market to pick up 2kg of pork belly and was very happy to see that the butcher took on the job of cutting off the pigs nipples for me…I’m not usually squeamish but the though of being presented with the task of lopping off a pigs nipple was a little beyond me! on a more practical note…I also got him to score the skin with a stanley knife before wobbling off home on my bike with very unbalanced handlebars.

To make the slow-roasted pork belly with braised fennel you need…

1 x 2kg pork belly on the bone, preferably free range

2 tbsp fennel seeds

salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 fennel bulbs, cut into sixths

A bunch of thyme

5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled

Olive oil

1 x bottle of white wine

Make sure you’re oven is whacked up to its maximum temperature.

Grind the fennel seeds with 2 tablespoons of sea salt in a pestle and mortar until they are a powder (due to my impatience my powder was still fairly coarse but it didn’t prove detrimental to the finished dish). Rub it into the score lines of your pork belly skin.

Put the fennel bulbs, thyme (just the leaves, not the stalks), garlic, a good slug of olive oil and seasoning into a large baking tray…

Lay your pork belly on top…

Put it into the preheated oven. After just 10 minutes, turn it down to 170 degrees and roast for another hour. Apparently putting it into a mega hot oven for a few minutes and then turning it down to slow roast is the key to amazing crackling!

This is what it looked like after 1 hour…

You then drain off any fat and pour the whole bottle of white wine over the fennel in the baking tray and return it to the oven for another hour…

This is what it looked like after 2 hours…

Now you remove the fennel from the tray, transferring it into another dish to either keep warm or, as I did, reheat later for a few minutes in the oven before serving.

It now goes back into the oven for its final stint. I cooked mine for a further hour a half to ensure the crackling was perfectly crackly!

Here it is in all it’s glory after three and a half mouth watering, crackle inducing, tender making hours…

What a beaut! (even if I do say so myself!)

Jamie recommended leaving it to rest for 10 minutes, which I did but then was so eager to get stuck in that any kind of carving finesse went out the window! I served it with mashed potato, the braised fennel and the deliciously concentrated juices that were left in the baking tray…

I’m not sure my photo’s really do it justice but I can tell you that it was absolutely amazing! My family were impressed and with the exception of the occasional murmur of delectation, were rendered uncharacteristically speechless for a good few minutes! 🙂

I encourage all fellow pork belly lovers out there to give this recipe a go!

I’m actually going to The English Pig, a restaurant entirely dedicated to pork dishes, in a couple of days. I hope to be able to indulge my love of pork belly further…but will it measure up I wonder! 🙂

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