I watched a chef I worked with pour tonic water over a pork belly because it was his ‘secret method’ for ensuring crispy crackling, I talked to a home cook about 2 months ago who told me she took her Nicky Clarke hair dryer to the skin just before roasting.. In both cases I was speechless – firstly because my G&T became just a G and the thoughts of dandruff being blown all over a piece of prime pork made me want to slap this idiot.
First things first – Pork crackling is not difficult…full stop. I am sick hearing old wives tales about how to get the best of the best of the best crackling…..everything from Tonic water to hair dryers….. The single most important requirement is heat – if you have a ropey oven on its last legs forget about crackling it’s not gonna happen.
The recipe here is a sure-shot (because you don’t need any witchcraft) for getting ‘knock-knock’ crackling….along with incredibly moist, soft and tender pork meat.
WHAT YOU NEED – SERVES 4
3 kl piece of bone-in pork belly (the ribs are an amazing tit-bit for the chef)
1 tbs fennel seeds
Fresh Thyme 1 large spring
4 cloves garlic
1 tbs salt flakes
1 tbs cracked black pepper
HOW YOU DO IT
Step1: Start by scoring the skin at 1 cm intervals with a very, very sharp knife, work parallel to the pork belly edges all the way down to the top layer of fat. If you are able to then carefully remove the rack of ribs from the belly, you will use them as a trivot when roasting but your butcher can do this if needed.
Step2: In a mortar and pestle bash up the salt, pepper, garlic and fennel seeds then work into the pork skin, flesh and the slashes you made.
Step3: Lay the ribs into a roasting tray then lay the belly on top and leave it sitting to make sure it is at room temperature. Purely from habit I lug some olive oil into the tray (not onto the pork) but it’s not necessary…makes a nice pic though 😉
Step4: Crank the oven up to its highest setting and when it’s at full belt place the pork on the middle shelf for and roast at this heat for 30 minutes – then immediately turn down to 140c for 3 hours.
Step5: After 3 hours at 140c crank up again to full for 15 minutes.This will ensure knock-knock crispy crackling – no voodoo required!
Step6: Leave the belly to rest uncovered for 10 minutes then serve.
At this time of year the only thing to put on the table with the pork is a crisp, fresh garden salad and freezing cold beer.