A pork belly gives a lot of bang for buck.
It’s a cheap cut that benefits from simple, hands-off cooking. A few herbs, some salt and pepper and a few hours in a low oven are all you need.
First, the joint.
A cut from the thick end of the belly weighing between 1 and 1.5kg is best, on the bone, the skin scored with a craft knife. Your butcher should do this for you, and if he doesn’t or won’t, you need to get a better butcher.
Next, the seasoning.
Grind two teaspoons of fennel seeds and three teaspoons of coriander seeds with a pestle and mortar. The aim is to crack and break the seeds, not to grind them into a powder.
Sprinkle the scored skin of the joint with salt and pepper, and rub about half of the spice mix into the skin, pushing it deep into the score marks.
Place the joint in a roasting tin and pour the rest of the spices into the bottom of the tray, where they’ll flavour the fat that renders from the meat.
Start the roast at 220c for thirty minutes. The initial blast of heat sets the crackling and guarantees a crispy finish. Turn the heat down to 180c for another ninety minutes.
You could go lower, to 140 or 150c, and cook for longer, upwards of three hours. No harm will come to the meat.
Let the joint rest for at least twenty minutes before removing the crackling in one piece and snapping into small pieces, and carving the meat into long, succulent strips. The snap of crackling is one of the most satisfying sounds any kitchen can produce.
The bones should be left to cool, then sliced into small spare ribs and gnawed away with a good chutney or relish.
Serve the pork with mashed potato and a green vegetable such as cabbage or broccoli, in a vain attempt to balance the fattiness of the meat.
The vegetables are there only for show. There’s no point pretending that this is a healthy dish, so you might as well undo this token nod towards healthy eating by spooning some of the delicious pan juices over the potato.
This method with pork belly comes form Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s new book, River Cottage Every Day.