1.5 kg bone-out pork belly
3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp chilli flakes
For the stuffing
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ fennel bulb, hard core cut out and discarded, the rest finely chopped
½ tsp coriander seeds, crushed
2 garlic cloves, crushed
250 g minced pork shoulder
1 slice sourdough bread, torn into small pieces
25 g toasted pine nuts
grated zest 1 unwaxed orange
3 dried apricots, finely chopped
3 sage leaves, finely chopped
½ tbsp rosemary leaves, chopped
½ tbsp lemon juice
freshly grated nutmeg, to serve
1 egg, beaten
- Score the pork belly skin with a sharp knife in a cross pattern. Score down to just before where the skin meets the fat, rather than the fat itself. Bring a large saucepan of water to a simmer and add the bicarbonate of soda. Lower the pork into the water, poach gently for 5 mins, then remove it from the water and leave to cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, toast the fennel seeds and chilli flakes in a dry frying pan over a high heat for 1-2 mins, then tip into a bowl and leave to cool. Grind the spices in a spice grinder or with a pestle and mortar, then mix with 1 tbsp fine sea salt.
- Once the pork has cooled, turn it skin-side down and pierce the underside of the meat all over with a knife. Rub the meat with the spiced salt rub, cover and put it in the fridge for at least 8 hrs or overnight. Can be prepared 24 hours ahead.
- The next day, make your stuffing. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the onion and fennel. Season and cook gently over a low heat for 10 mins. Add the coriander seeds and garlic, and cook for another 2 mins, then add the mince. Cook for 8-10 mins until the mince is browned. Set aside and leave to cool.
- Transfer the mince and onion mix to a bowl and add the sourdough, pine nuts, orange zest, apricots, herbs, lemon juice and nutmeg. Season well, then mix together thoroughly with your hands. Add the egg and mix again.
- Lie the pork belly on a board, skin-side down. Form the stuffing into a sausage shape running all the way down the middle of the belly. Wrap the sides of the belly around the stuffing and tie with butcher’s string. Place seam-side down in a roasting tin, uncovered, and chill for at least 2 hrs, preferably overnight. You want the skin to dry out completely so that it crisps up when you roast it.
- To cook the pork, remove it from the fridge and leave it for at least 1 hr to come to room temperature before you cook it. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan and cook the pork for about 2 hrs, turning the tin every 30 mins or so. After 2 hrs, turn the heat up to 220C/200C fan and cook for another 20 mins. When the pork is done, a thermometer pushed into its centre should read 77C. If the skin looks in danger of burning, cover it with foil – but only do this once it has crackled.
- Once the pork has cooked, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 30 mins. When you’re ready to carve, put the pork on a big chopping board. Using a sharp knife, slice the meat into rounds. Serve the pork, stuffing and crackling.