Merry Christmas! We hope you’ve had a wonderful few days wherever you’ve spent it, we’ve been having a brilliant time stuffing our faces, playing board games, heading out for the odd walk and generally catching up with some lovely people. When you’re ready to face another indulgent meal we think this could be the perfect candidate, crispy slow-roasted pork belly served with celeriac mash, wilted kale, green beans and a rich cider gravy… delicious!
Remember when we made this pork adobo? We cut our piece of pork belly in half and chucked half in the freezer with a vague intention to roast it, and that’s exactly what we did! We served this on Bristmas (Bristol-Christmas) Eve – because we are visiting Fats’ family over Christmas we had our own special day to open presents that we couldn’t bring with us, including some brilliant wine from Bird’s parents – check it out on our Instagram. We’d never roasted pork belly before but after reading a few recipes online the general consensus was to stick it on a rack or some vegetables, put it in as hot as your oven will go and then turn down and slowly roast for hours until it practically falls apart but is topped with the most incredible crackling. To counteract the richness we served ours with some celeriac mash which is much lighter than using all potatoes, and some dark green vegetables, but we couldn’t resist making a gravy, it would have been a crime to waste everything left in the roasting dish!
Ingredients (serves 2)
- A piece of pork belly, around 350g
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Roughly chopped vegetables, we used carrots, onion and a parsnip but celery would be good too – use anything you have lying around
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 300ml dry cider
- 1 small/medium baking potato, peeled and roughly cubed
- 300-400g celeriac, peeled and roughly cubed
- Salt and pepper
- Shredded kale, around 100-150g
- Green beans, around 100g
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- Boiling water – as much as you like to make the right consistency gravy
To start with you need to score the pork belly, to do this you need a really sharp knife so either make sure yours are sharp, use a craft knife (like a Stanley knife) or ask your butcher to do it. You can score either horizontally/vertically or cross-hatch like we did. Make sure you cut through the skin into the fatty part, but not too deep so you don’t cut into the meat. Preheat the oven to as hot as it will go (around 250°C). Pop the fennel seeds and sea salt into a pestle and mortar and crush together for a few seconds to break up the fennel seeds. Tip this onto the skin of the pork and rub in, making sure it gets into all of the score lines. Put the roughly chopped vegetables into a roasting dish, drizzle over the olive oil and place the pork on top, then pop in the oven when it’s come to temperature.
After 10 minutes turn the oven right down to about 160-170°C. Our piece took around 2 hours from this point, you want the meat to be falling apart, so if you’re cooking for more people then add on some more time. The beauty of this is that it’s hard to overcook, it will stay beautifully moist as long as you don’t forget about it all day! Halfway through the cooking time (so after 1 hour for our piece) pour 200ml of the cider into the roasting dish. The vegetables should have started to caramelise so the cider will bubble around all of those bits and get all of the best flavour for your gravy! Don’t worry if you’re cooking this dish for children, all of the alcohol will burn off and just leave that gorgeous apple flavour.
When your pork has about half an hour left you need to start cooking the celeriac and potato to make your mash, cube them, add to a large pan of cold water, bring to the boil and cook until soft. Once they are cooked drain them well and then it’s time to take the pork out of the oven! This is where things will get a little bit hectic – you need to make your mash and keep it warm, keep the pork warm, cook your green vegetables and make some gravy… but if we can handle a busy 10 minutes over the stove then so can you! Take the pork out of the oven, take a few seconds to marvel at its crispy beauty and then lift it off the bed of vegetables into a warm plate or a wooden board and cover loosely with foil. Make the gravy first, that way it can bubble away while you get on with everything else. Sprinkle the plain flour over the vegetables, and then using a fork squash the vegetables down with the flour which will soak up all of the lovely flavour. If your roasting dish is ok to use on the hob then you can make it all in the dish but ours wasn’t so we then tipped all of the squashed-vegetable mix into a pan. Place over a low heat and once it’s nice and toasty pour in the remaining 100ml of cider, let this reduce almost completely and then stir in enough boiling water to get it to a slightly thinner consistency than you would like. Turn the heat right down and let this bubble away happily.
We cooked our kale by wilting it in a wok with a little water, butter, salt, pepper and grated nutmeg and some green beans simply boiled, drained and then coated in a tiny bit of butter. Mash up your celeriac and potato making sure to go easy on the milk and butter as celeriac is more watery than potato so you’ll end up with soup if you’re not careful! If it does end up wetter than you would like you can easily remedy it by placing the pan over a very low heat and mashing/stirring continuously until it’s dried out slightly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Plate up time! We warmed our plates in the oven for a minute while we finished off the gravy by straining it into a jug giving the vegetables an extra squash with a spoon in the sieve to get every bit of goodness out! Then just whack it all on a plate, you won’t have the agonising wait like we did while we took photos… tuck straight in! If you’ve got any cider left (we may or may not have bought a box) it’s lovely served with it. Ours may look like a fairly meagre portion but it’s so rich that you don’t need much, try this out for an alternative roast to impress your friends and family with!