I like to think that pork belly is one of my specialties. If I am ever asked what my signature dish is, pork belly is usually the meal that comes to mind. When I was ‘inducted’ (during a ceremonius morning tea) to the Auckland Racing Club clan (where I spent four months on a marketing contract over the summer just gone) I was asked this very question. I think my proud and non-hesitant exclamation of ‘pork belly’ cemented a mutual respect between Butch, the Ellerslie Racing Director and me.
I’m originally from Dunedin, New Zealand and while I lived there I discovered Havoc Pork Butchery selling their gorgeous free-range pork products at the Otago Farmers Market. Luckily for Dunedin folks, Havoc have since opened a store in the City so they are no longer restricted to online purchases or waiting until Saturday’s market. I now live in Auckland however, so can no longer pop in to see the friendly Havoc folk at their butchery. Thank goodness for distribution though, as us Aucklanders can now buy Havoc Pork products at Farrow Fresh.
Not everyone lives in Auckland or Dunners though, so thank goodness, Havoc is also available at many other places around New Zealand. Where to buy Havoc Pork products
You don’t of course have to use Havoc Pork, but I use it where I can because the flavour is far superior to many other pork products and I know that the pigs have been raised in a humane way. I mean, these little guys have classical music played to them every day on the farm! Can’t beat that.
Now onto the good stuff…
How to cook a mouth-watering pork belly that will keep them coming back for more!
I have cooked pork belly many different ways, but I thought I’d start with my Five Spice recipe as it’s super easy and absolutely delicious to devour.
One piece of pork belly
1 medium sized onion
2 tablespoons Chinese fivespice powder
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 cup apple cider, or apple juice
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Turn the oven on to 180 degrees centigrade
Using paper towels, thoroughly dry all sides of the pork belly, skin included. Then, using a sharp knife, score the skin in crossing diagonal strips, approximately a centimetre apart (essentially making a diamond pattern). Be careful not to go too deep as you don’t want to cut into the pork flesh. Once you’ve scored the skin, rub salt all over the skin and into the cracks you have made with your knife. Don’t use any more than a teapsoon of salt, as you don’t want to be guzzling water when you eat it!
Scoring the pork skin is what will make it nice and crispy! If you don’t know how to score pork skin, Youtube it.
The salt helps dry the pork skin which adds to the crispyness, plus it gives it flavour.
Combine Chinese fivespice powder and ground white pepper in a bowl. Turn the pork over so the skin side is facing downwards. Using your hands, scatter the spice mixture reasonably evenly over the pork belly flesh (not the skin). Rub the mixture into the flesh, taking care to do all four sides of the meat as well. Put the meat in the refridgerator to let the flavours develop. It’s up to you how long you want to leave the pork, but don’t leave it any less than 30 minutes. Overnight is great if you’re prepared, but I never am!
While your pork is developing the fivespice flavour in the fridge, cut one medium sized onion and two apples into thin wedges. Combine them and put into the bottom of a roasting dish. These will form the base onto which you will place the pork.
Now take your pork belly out of the fridge and place in the roasting pan, on top of the cut apples and onion. Cover the dish in tin foil and place on the top shelf of the oven for 45 minutes.
After the pork has been in the oven for approximately 45 minutes, remove the tinfoil. Taking care not to wet the pork skin, pour one cup of apple cider (although I used apple and nectarine juice this time) and half a cup of apple cider vinegar over the apple and onion mixture. Turn the oven temperature up to 230 degrees celcius and continue cooking on the top shelf for about 30 more minutes. Removing the tin foil and increasing the temperature allows the skin to crisp up.
Check your pork. If the skin looks nice and crispy but not burned (hopefully) then it’s ready to eat! If it’s not quite there, just keep cooking it, but keep a watchful eye on it, taking care for it not to burn. That would be gutting!! When it’s ready, take it out of the oven and place the pork on a cutting board for five minutes. This allows the pork to rest and lets the juices go back inside, helping it to be all lovely and tender. After five minutes, slice the pork into pieces. There’s no hard and fast rule here about how thick to cut the pork. It’s all up to you and how you like it.
Serve! I served mine with plain cous cous, draped in the apple and onion combo with a bit of the liquid drizzled over top. However, you might like to serve yours with potato mash, sweet potato mash, roast potatoes or anything else that takes your fancy.
Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed mine. Yum!!
P.S. Next time I’ll include a photo for each step. I was a little photo lazy last night…I must have been hungry!!