Like other so-called 'cheap' cuts pork belly has gone up significantly in price over the last year or so since it became a must-have main course in gastropubs and other modern British restaurants. But it's still a reasonable deal. I paid just over £13 for a 2.5kg piece in St Nick's Market in Bristol on Saturday and it produced 10 helpings (everyone had seconds!) with two more for leftovers today. I could have paid less but it's worth buying pork that hasn't been anywhere near a vac-pack if you want to get decent crackling.
I stretched it with slices of black pudding, a big tray of roast veggies including potatoes onions, carrots and parsnips and some steamed Savoy cabbage which made everyone's plate look loaded even though they didn't have a vast amount of meat. It's also very good with mashed potato mixed with equal amounts of puréed unsweetened Bramley apples, a German dish called poetically Himmel und Erde (heaven and earth).
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp sunflower or light olive oil
1.35kg belly pork in a single piece on the bone
500ml chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g black pudding, skinned and sliced
Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas 9. Put the salt, peppercorns, coriander in a mortar and pound with a pestle until coarsely ground. Add the chopped garlic and pound again then add a tablespooon of oil to create a thick paste. With a sharp knife cut into the pork flesh either side so you can push the spice mixture into the meat and rub it over the flesh and into the cuts you’ve made (but not over the skin). Put the joint on a wire rack over a roasting tin and add a splash of the stock to the pan to stop the spices from burning and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 and cook for another hour and forty minutes, pouring off the fat half way through and adding a little extra liquid to the tin if the juices threaten to burn. (Don’t baste it though - you’ll spoil the crackling!)
Transfer the joint to another roasting tin, turn the heat back up to 230°C/450°F/Gas 9 and continue cooking until the crackling is good and crisp. Set aside and rest for 10 minutes (but don’t cover or the steam will make the crackling soft) Carefully pour any accumulated fat off the first roasting tin, pour in half the remaining stock and work round the tin with a wooden spoon to incorporate all the caramelised meat juices. Add more stock if needed to get a thin but tasty gravy and season with salt and pepper.
Heat the remaining oil in another pan and fry the black pudding slices on both sides until crisp. Carve the meat into chunks and serve with roasted root vegetables or potato and apple purée as suggested above and some lightly cooked, buttered brussel tops or cabbage.