On my recent trip to the UK, I bought a new cookbook. In its bread section, Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall talks about areas of ‘weakness’ that every cook, be they professional or not, has. For him, it was bread. Mine is definitely cooking certain types of meat, and particularly roasts. As you might have already noticed, I am very comfortable cooking chicken and beef, but roasts are not my specialty, and I don’t have much experience with lamb or pork. However, I am determined to change this and cook more and more things that are out of my comfort zone.
I decided to buy a cut of meat that I’d never cooked before and experiment with it. After a trip to the supermarket (armed with my dictionary – meat cuts aren’t always easy to understand in a foreign language!), I ended up with pork belly (Schweinebauch in German). I had zero experience cooking it and not that much with pork in general either.
The belly of the pork is a rather fatty part of the animal and is growing in popularity. It is very popular in Chinese and Korean cuisines. After doing some research — including asking the cooks in my family, none of whom had ever made it — the recipe I ended up using is from Jamie Oliver and can be found here. It seemed straightforward enough and the instructions were detailed, plus it had good reviews.
This is not hard to make and the prep time is very short — it just takes a long time in the oven. You first score the skin of the belly (much more difficult than I thought – it is very thick!) and then rub salt into the scores. The pork then roasts in the oven at a high temperature for half an hour, and then another hour at a slightly lower temperature (220C to 180C). For the last hour, you add the vegetables, garlic and herbs. I didn’t have any carrots and onions so improvised with leeks and used thyme and garlic as well.
For a first attempt I was pleased with the result. The meat was tender, juicy, and tasty. The crackling was tougher than I thought, and very hard to chew, but it was crispy and delicious. There was more fat on this particular cut than you’d get with others, so that could be a problem for people who don’t like it, but it didn’t bother me to just cut that part off.
We had the pork with a salad, which will be the subject of my next post!