It’s no secret that I love slow cooking. If a TV Chef utters the magic words “pop it into the oven for at least 4 hours” I know I’m going to try the recipe. I love the melting, falling apart texture of a slow cooked joint, the fact you can pull the bone out of 5-hour-leg-of-lamb with a gentle tug. In fact I’ve always wanted to cook something in a low oven overnight but am yet to summon up the courage…
And of all the joints of meat to slow-cook, pork belly is one of my favourites. I love the fact it is comparatively cheap (despite gaining recent popularity as a Gastropub Fave), I love its melting, gooey texture and the fact that it’s so forgiving – you can pop it into the oven on a really low heat for 2 hours or 4 hours and it’ll still be delicious.
But most of all I love the fact that almost all national cuisines have a use for it. You can shred it and serve it in tortillas with refried pinto beans, lime juice and chillis for a Mexican flavour. You can braise it in a sticky, aromatic, gingery sauce and serve with spring onions for an Asian flavour. Or you can rub it with crushed fennel seeds and chilli flakes and serve with some good roasted tomatoes and mashed cannellini beans for a kind-of-Italian angle.
Which was what I did in the picture above. I bashed up the fennel seeds and chilli flakes with a little sea salt and black peppercorns in a pestle and mortar and then rubbed it all over the meat. I left it for an hour or so at room temperature and then I put on top of a mound of sliced red onions in a roasting dish and put it into a hot oven but immediately turned the temperature right down to 150-ish. I left it to cook for about 3 hours, pouring a little stock around the meat after about 2 hours. I served it on some sweet little roasted Datteri tomatoes with a scoop of creamy mashed cannellini beans splashed with some nice peppery olive oil.
I thought it was a good, lazy Sunday lunch dish. In my fantasy life it would always be followed by a long dog-walk, the Sunday papers and a snooze on the sofa.