Thursday, June 13, 2024

Recipe: Braised Pork Belly with perfect crackling

Lazy chef’s guide to a winter warmer

Braising is one of my favourite cooking methods, says the queen of culinary bling, chef Mel Alafaci. It’s simply roasting but with a liquid partially surrounding your meat. Braising allows your tougher cuts to cook and break down over long periods of time, imparts flavour, moisture and personality to the dish. And, best of all, at the end you have a gorgeous sauce to serve as a gravy.

Braised Pork Belly with perfect crackling

INGREDIENTS

  • 2-4 cups weak chicken or vegetable stock (depending on depth of roasting dish)
  • 200-250g pork belly per person
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder or ras el hanout or curry powder
  • 2 onions thickly sliced for culinary high heels!
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2-star anise
  • 2 tbsp dark brown/raw sugar/ coconut/palm sugar
  • 2 pears thickly sliced (no need to peel!)

METHOD

To prepare the belly first ensure that you have dried the skin as much as possible. Paper towels work well.

Once the skin is dry you can even pop it under a fan to help dry the skin further.
Season the skin with salt only at the very last minute.

Place the belly into a shallow baking tray. Pour the liquid, onions, pears and spices around the pork belly, taking special care not to wet the skin. If the belly is too low in places, prop it up with the onions and pears as high heels.

Season the skin with salt and then place in an oven of 200°C for about an hour.

After an hour, hike up the heat to about 230°C for a further 20 minutes or even turn the grill on and have the tray with the pork at the bottom of the oven so it has a long-distance relationship with the grill to crackle out the skin! Watch closely!

Once the skin is brown and crisp you can serve with a stack of gorgeous vegetables or sides of your choice!

CHEFS NOTE:

Pork belly needs time to be perfect! There are ways to rush it, especially under the grill, but try to allow some time. If you can, once you have crackling after the cook time recommended above, hold for a further 30 minutes at 120°C making sure there is still braising liquid, and this will help tenderise thicker cuts of belly. Enjoy!

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