There’s something about yielding tender meat and crunchy crackling – two elements that make a juicy roast pork belly irresistible. Here, it’s partnered with figs, seasonal pears and, for good measure, a glug of dry sherry.
- 5kg British free-range pork belly, on the bone, skin scored (ask your butcher to do this – see tip)
- 2 tsp caraway seeds
- Large pinch dried chilli flakes
- A few thyme sprigs, leaves picked
- 1 tsp sea salt flakes
- 2 onions, peeled and quartered
- 1 large leek or 2 carrots, cut into chunks
- 300ml dry sherry (such as fino or amontillado)
- 4 ripe figs, halved
- 2 pears, quartered and cored
You’ll also need…
- Pestle and mortareasure, a glug of dry sherry.
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- The night before cooking, unwrap the pork, put it on a lipped plate or tray and cover with a tea towel. Put at the bottom of the fridge, well away from food that will be eaten raw, until ready to cook.
- Heat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas 7. Remove the pork from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking to take the chill off it. Pat the skin dry with kitchen paper. Grind the spices and thyme leaves in a pestle and mortar, add a good grind of black pepper, then rub the mixture into the pork meat. Rub the salt into the skin, then put the meat in a snug-fitting, heavy-based roasting tin, skin-side up. Put the tin in the oven and roast for 45 minutes until the skin crackles.
- Remove the tin, turn down the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas 3½, then transfer the pork to a board. Put the onions and the leek/carrots in the tin to form a trivet, then sit the pork on top and add the sherry and 100ml cold water. Return the pork to the oven for 3 hours, checking every hour or so and adding a little extra water if it starts to dry out. After 3 hours, wiggle one of the bones. If it feels loose enough to come away easily from the flesh, remove the pork from the oven. If not, cook for 20-30 minutes more.
- Once the pork is tender, remove the tin from the oven and add the figs and pears, turning them to coat in the cooking juices. Turn up the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6, then return the pork for 10-15 minutes. If the skin is crisp, remove the tin from the oven and rest the meat on a warm plate for 20 minutes. If it’s not fully crackled, cook the pork for another 20 minutes or until the skin is crisp.
- When you’re ready to serve, put the pork skin-side down on a chopping board, pull out the bones, then carve into generous slices.
- Put the pork, fig halves and pear quarters on a platter, then spoon over the cooking juices from the tin. Serve with potatoes and any steamed veg you fancy.