Imagine unctuously slow-cooked pork belly infused with the intoxicating aromas of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, chilli, and coriander. It doesn’t get much better than this.
The recipe is a brilliant one by Skye Gyngell, to which — if I may — I did make one substantial improvement: crackling.
The initial method slices the gently simmered pork and browns each individual rib in a pan. I found this impractical. I’d much rather be clinking glasses with friends than browning meat in the kitchen. Also, dare I serve pork belly with no crackling? So I improvised a little and shot two inconveniences with one rather practical idea: rather than searing the meat, why not slide it into the oven for a second low and slow roasting. Boom!
Pork belly with star anise, ginger, cinnamon and cloves
Adapted from A Year In My Kitchen by Skye Gyngell. The process is a lengthy one but hardly requires any hands on work. Plan with a minimum of 4 hours before serving time.
2 kg piece of best quality pork belly
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
1 tsp cloves
1 red chilli
4 cm (1 1/2 inch) piece fresh ginger root
6 garlic cloves
2 Tbsps coriander stems (and roots if available)
100 ml (1/2 cup) tamari soy sauce
75 ml (1/3 cup) maple syrup
Sea salt and black pepper
Place the pork belly in a pot large enough for it to lie horizontally quite snugly. Add cold water to cover. Bring to the boil, then immediately remove from the heat, drain the water, and rinse out the pot.
Return the pork belly to the clean pot (skin side up), cover again with cold water, and add the cinnamon, star anise, cloves, chilli, peeled and roughly sliced ginger, peeled garlic cloves, and roughly chopped coriander stems (and roots). Bring to the boil then turn the heat down to very low, and let the pork simmer gently for about 1 1/2 hours.
With a pare of tongs carefully take the meat out of the pan and place it onto an ovenproof dish. Season with salt and pepper. Reserve the liquid which will be made into an incredible sauce (see below).
**The meat can rest a while or be refrigerated overnight at this point. Preferably take it out of the refrigerator about an hour before using again.**
Approximately 2 hours before planning to serve, place the pork belly in a 300°F (150°C) oven and roast for 1 1/2 hours. Check after one hour; if the skin isn’t crispy enough, increase the temperature to 375°F (190°C) for the last 20 to 30 minutes. Take the pork out of the oven and let rest for at least 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, to make the sauce, add the tamari and maple syrup to the fragrant cooking water, turn the heat back on to high, and let it boil away for a good half hour until the liquid has reduced by about half to become a dark and rich sauce. When it has acquired to the desired consistency, remove from the heat and strain out the spices, pouring the sauce into a smaller saucepan ready to be easily reheated later.
Serve the pork belly with the thoroughly reheated, piping hot sauce.