Out of all the meats in the world, for me, pork is the king. Not only can you use the whole animal for true nose-to-tail eating, but the flavour is immense. If I could only eat one meat again for the rest of my life, those little piggies would probably be it. Out of all the different delectable delicacies that can be extracted from the porkers, the crispy pork belly is the king, with its layers of fat and juicy meat.
If I’m ever eating out at a restaurant and I see some crispy pork belly on the menu, that’s going to be my choice. Call the waiter, it’s time to order. Although it could be the absolute best thing on the menu, it’s a dangerous game to play. I can’t even count how many times I’ve felt the disappointment that arrives when the skin isn’t crispy on the “Crispy Pork Belly”.
Fear not though! This recipe is your one-way ticket to crackling heaven, and the flavour train is passing through all of the juiciest, meatiest stations. Although we’ve used the classic Chinese siew yoke method for optimum crunch, you can mix up the spices to get your ideal flavour profile (fennel seeds are your friend).
The one drawback (strictly time-related) of using this method is that you need to start the day before you plan to eat. as the recipe includes a small but essential dry curing step, to remove excess water and add extra flavour. By salting the belly overnight, we begin the process of drying the skin out, which leads to the mega-crispy pork crackling we all need in our lives.
Now, you’re going to get to a point in the recipe below where you’re like “WTF? This amount of salt is obscene”. That’s fine, and to be honest I have the same reaction every time I make this. Don’t worry though, because you’re going to scrape it all off halfway through the cooking.
When eating fatty food like a crispy pork belly, what you really need is something that can cut straight through the richness while providing a bomb of flavour straight to your taste buds. Salsa verde is just the perfect candidate in this case, as the lemon, capers and vinegar provide that great sour zing. It’s also packed with Mr Pork’s best friends, sage and rosemary, which just lift the flavour to the next level.
After you’ve repeatedly punished your meat, with all of the curing, salting, salting again, and blasting in a blistering oven, what it really needs is a nice relax, and what could be more relaxing than lying down in a bed (of cannellini beans). Whereas potatoes could weigh this dish down too much, these semi-mashed beans provide the perfect accompaniment.
A perfect plate based on the ultimate foolproof crispy pork belly recipe. With mashed cannellini beans and a tangy salsa verde, this is sure to become a favourite.
- 1 kg pork belly
- 2 tbsp fine salt non-iodized
- 2 tsp white pepper ground
- 2 tsp Chinese five spice
- 4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 3 anchovies
- 1 garlic clove peeled
- 50 g flat leaf parsley
- 1.5 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp capers
- 1 tbsp caper brine
- 2 tbsp rosemary
- 2 tbsp sage
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 can cannellini beans drained
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 1 tbsp rosemary
- 1 tbsp butter unsalted
Get the pork belly out and dry off any excess moisture from the surface of the skin with some paper towel or similar. Rub the skin with 1 tbsp of the salt, the white pepper and the five spice. Rest the meat uncovered in the fridge overnight to aid the drying process.
The next day, remove the meat from the fridge about an hour before you want to begin cooking to let it come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Cover salt already on the skin with the other tbsp of salt (don’t worry, about the obscene amount of salt here, you’re not going to eat any of it) and place it on the wire rack of a roasting pan. Roast the pork for 1 hour before removing from the oven and increasing the temperature to 250°C.
Scrape off the white layer of salt that will have formed on top of the meat, then wash the skin using the cider vinegar. I find it easiest to use some paper towel here so I can make sure I rub all of the salt off of the top.
Return the pork belly to the oven for around 20 minutes, or until the skin has become wonderfully brown and crispy. You may need to keep an eye on the meat here and turn it in the oven a few times to make sure any hotspots don’t burn your meat.
When done, remove the pork from the oven and cover very loosely with foil for around 20 minutes to allow the meat to rest. Make sure that the foil is very loose here, or you will create condensation underneath which will undo all the hard work you put into your crackling.
Carve the meat, using a very sharp knife, the larger, the better; cutting the meat skin-side-up will help to ensure that the crackling doesn’t fall off of the meat.
Drop the anchovies and garlic into a running food processor. Scrape down the sides.
Add the rest of the ingredients except the oil and pulse until the mixture is smooth.
With the processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Soften the onion in the butter over a medium heat for around 5 minutes. Do not brown.
Add in the beans and cook through. Add the rosemary when the beans are just beginning to break down.
Cook for a further few minutes and season with salt and pepper. Stir through and an extra knob of butter for a luxurious finish.