There are a few steps here but each takes minimal time. The effort is in remembering to do them rather than the deed itself, but these small touches do make all the difference. Seasoning the pork for a couple of hours with the salt and fenugreek really penetrates the meat and gives a fuller flavour. Blanching it and leaving it to air-dry overnight results in a much lighter crackling. The dish will still be delicious even if you don’t follow those two steps. The fennel should be cut smaller than the onion as it takes longer to cook. You could even throw in some tinned white beans (drained) along with the garlic and sage if you, like me, love double carbs! This is a great example of how in the continent, good food can be a democratic luxury, enjoyed by all through home cooking, rather than just those who can afford fancy restaurants; something we still need to improve on over here.
700g Ibaïama pork belly
3 tbsp Maldon salt
3 tbsp Fenugreek seeds
1 tbsp White wine vinegar
2 Onions, cut into thick wedges through the root
1 Fennel, cut into thinner wedges through the root
600g New potatoes, halved
1 tbsp Smoked paprika
1 Garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp Sage, finely chopped
1 tbsp Sherry vinegar
- Score the skin of the belly in a cross-hatch with a small sharp knife, then season the all over with the salt and fenugreek. Leave for 2 hours then wash off.
- Place the pork belly in a large pan of cold water and bring to the boil; simmer very gently for 10 mins.
- Strain and leave to air dry and come to room temp, then rub the skin with white wine vinegar and leave to air-dry overnight in the fridge, uncovered, sat on some J-cloth or absorbent paper.
- The next day, remove the pork from the fridge so it comes up to room temperature before cooking.
- Season the pork again on the skin side generously with Maldon salt and place on a lightly oiled roasting tray.
- Roast at 170C for 1 hr.
- During this time, mix together the potatoes, fennel, onions and smoked paprika.
- Remove the pork from the oven and from the roasting tray. Tip in the paprika coated vegetables and toss with the fat and juices that have come out of the pork.
- Place the pork on top of them and roast for another hour or until the vegetables are softened and golden. The pork should have a beautifully light crackling and tender meat. Switch off the oven.
- Remove the pork and stir the garlic, sage and sherry vinegar into the vegetables.
- Sit the pork back on top, return to the oven (now off), leave the door ajar and leave for 30 mins to rest, and just take the raw edge off the sage and garlic, and so you can enjoy it warm rather than nuclear. Summer food is rarely best enjoyed piping hot!
- Carve the pork, serve with the vegetables and a healthy dollop of mayonnaise.