We often associate pork belly with bacon, and although it is easy to make your own, pork belly has much more to offer. Buy a fresh pork belly on the bone, remove the bones in one piece and cook as pork ribs, or chop them up as the base for a great pork sauce.
1kg pork belly, ribs removed (see Pork belly )
3 thyme sprigs, leaves only
1 rosemary sprig, leaves chopped
Olive oil, for cooking
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
3 litres Chicken Stock
3 fresh or dried bay leaves
3 rosemary sprigs
5 thyme sprigs
1 tsp peppercorns
2 tbsp butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
BLACK APPLE BUTTER
500g Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces
100g black treacle
50g Demerara sugar
2 tsp mixed spice
Juice of 1 lemon
For the black apple butter, place all the ingredients in a large pan and stew gently until the apples are completely broken down. When most of the liquid has evaporated, transfer to a blender and blitz. Cool and store refrigerated.
Preheat the oven to 140°C/275°F/Gas 1. Remove two-thirds of the pork skin. Season the inner side of the belly well with 1 tsp salt and some pepper, and sprinkle the thyme and rosemary over the pork. Roll up the belly, skin-side out. Tie tightly at intervals with butcher’s string.
Heat a little olive oil in a deep braising pan and add the pork to colour on all sides. Remove from the pan, add the onion, carrot and celery to the pan and colour. Add back the pork with the stock, herbs, 1 tbsp salt and the peppercorns. Bring to a gentle simmer, then transfer to the oven, cover and cook until tender, about 2½–3 hours. Leave to cool in the cooking liquid, then remove the pork to drain on a wire rack and take off the string. Roll tightly in cling film into a firm cylinder and leave to cool in the fridge, ideally overnight. Strain the cooking liquor into a pan and reduce to a thick sauce consistency.
Cut the set pork into slices and gently pan-fry in olive oil until golden, adding some black apple butter to coat all over just at the end of cooking. Heat some of the reduced sauce, add the butter and whisk through.
Serve the pork with the reduced sauce, with a selection of seasonal vegetables of your choice.