Smoked Pork Belly with Apple, Cider and Sage

On the menu:

Slow Roasted Smoked Pork Belly with Apple, Cider and Sage, Potato, Celeriac and Savoy Crush

My Dutch pea soup left me with a sizable slab of smoked pork belly. What to do. I never cooked nor eaten pork belly on its own as, although popping up on many a trendy restaurant menu and nigh on revered by many when cooked sticky Asian style, I’m not a fan of fatty meat.

I had been eyeing up recipes using pork, apple and sage for a while though, and could well imagine the sweetness and acidity of the apples cutting through the fattiness of the pork and the sage adding that distinguished herbaciousness I so love in Italian Pork Saltimbocca.

None of these recipes used smoked pork belly though. But that’s what I had. This dish will equally work beautiful unsmoked pork though.

What came to the table was incredibly satisfying and delicious, even if I say so myself. The lightness of the  potato and celeriac crush balanced out the richness of the pork. The apple, onion and cider gave acidity and sweetness, which contrasted as well as complimented the fatty crunchy pork beautifully.

This is a great budget alternative to the traditional British Sunday Roast. But it’s special enough for a relaxed dinner party in the months when purse strings need tightening post festivities. The recipe can easily be scaled up for larger numbers.

THE RECIPES 

Slow Roasted Smoked Pork Belly with Apple, Cider and Sage (serves 2 – GF DF RSF)

Smoked pork belly with apple sage cider

Ingredients

450 gr smoked or unsmoked pork belly, skin scored

2 plump garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed

Leaves from a few sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped

Leaves from a few sprigs of thyme, finely chopped

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp sea salt flakes

1 tsp fine sea salt

S&P

1 carrot, roughly chopped

A few sticks of celery, roughly chopped

½ leek, roughly chopped

3 apples, peeled, cored and cut into thick slices or wedges

2 onions, white or red, cut into thick slices or wedges

A handful of fresh sage leaves

a little rapeseed oil

1 tbsp (GF) plain flour

200 ml quality cider

200 ml good chicken stock

Method

Mash the garlic with a pinch of salt to a puree in a pestle and mortar or on a chopping board with the flat of a cook’s knife. Add it to a bowl or mini food processor. Add half the rosemary and thyme. Mash/chop with a little oil and a good grinding of black pepper to get a rough paste.

Stab the pork (on the bare side) a good few times with a sharp knife and rub the garlicky herb paste allover and into the holes.

Turn the pork over and blot the skin dry with kitchen paper. Massage the fine sea salt evenly over the scored skin. Then rub the skin with a splash of oil and scatter over some sea salt flakes.

Put the carrot, celery, leek and bay leaves in an oven-to-stove roasting tin and place the pork on top, skin side up.

Set aside at room temperature for an hour or so while you heat the oven to 240 C.

When ready to roast turn the oven down to 220 C and roast the pork for 25 mins. Turn the heat down to 180°C and roast for 45-60 mins depending on how thick your pork belly is (Mine was quite thin, so I did 45 mins).

Add the apples, onions and sage to another roasting tin with the remaining rosemary and thyme. Add a dash of stock, season and toss to mix.

Remove the pork from the oven and place it on top of the apples and onions. Tuck the bay leaves in among the apples and onions.

Return the pork to the oven and cook for another 45-60 mins depending on thickness, or until tender (again, 45 mins for my thin cut). If the apples and onions are drying out, add another dash of stock.

Meanwhile, remove the vegetables from the first roasting tin with a slotted spoon and discard. Skim any excess fat off the pork juices.

Place the tin on the hob over a medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or so, scraping off all the sticky goodies from the bottom of the tin as you go. Gradually stir in the cider and stock. Bring it up to a simmer and cook for 5 mins, stirring and scraping often.

Strain the sauce through a sieve into a saucepan and check the seasoning. Set aside.

When the pork is cooked, transfer it to a carving board.

The crackling should have crisped up by now, but if not, carefully slice it away from the top of the meat and return it to the oven to roast at 220 C until it crackles and pops.Mine was fine as was.

Rest the pork meanwhile under some alu foil.

Transfer the apples and onions to a warm serving bowl or divide between the plates. Skim the fat of any juices remaining in the tin, and strain the remaining juices into the cider sauce.

Reheat the cider sauce and cut the pork into thick slices.

Serve the pork and crackling with the apples and onions, the cider sauce, a green veg and mashed or roast potatoes, or a vegetable “crush” such as my potato, celeriac and savoy crush below.

Pork belly Apple sage cider and potato celeriac savoy crush

Potato, Celeriac and Savoy Cabbage Crush (serves 2-3 – GF V RSF)

You can use spring greens, kale, spinach or another cabbage or green leafy vegetable here as well.

Ingredients

1-2 floury potatoes

½ celeriac

¼ savoy cabbage, ribs removed, finely shredded or chopped

500 ml chicken stock

Butter or creme fraiche or both

S&P

Freshly grated nutmeg

Method

Peel and roughly chop the potatoes and celeriac. Place into a pan with the chicken stock and enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until tender (about 20 mins).

For the last 10 minutes of cooking, place a steamer on top and add the cabbage. Don’t or only partially cover, as this will help keep the vibrant green colour.

Strain the potatoes and celeriac through a sieve, reserving the cooking liquid. Either push through a potato ricer, or return to the pan and mash as roughly or as smoothly as you like.

Add the cabbage and mash again. Add enough butter, crème fraiche and/or cooking liquid to achieve a creamy yet firm texture. Season to taste with S&P and nutmeg. (use the rest of the cooking liquid for the cider sauce).

Serve alongside the pork belly.

This is also delicious with smoked pork sausage or my sausages and onion gravy, or a fried or poached egg and crispy bacon lardons as a midweek family meal.

Smoked pork belly

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