“The belly pork was a present for a weekend invitation and the bottle of cassis happened to have been rolling around in the boot of my car for quite some time. My sister’s freezer was chocker with blackcurrants and her kitchen has a large inglenook fireplace. Given the choice, I would always prefer to cook over wood than on a hob. So there you have it! Good things come from a little scrape in the freezer, a quick scout of the surroundings and a vague knowledge of what lurks in a messy car.” – Valentine Warner
2 Hours +
Long & Slow
Images by Paul Winch-Furness.
From the book Hog: Proper Pork recipes from the snout to the squeak by Richard H. Turner, published by Mitchell Beazley, £25.00, which you can buy here.
Stainless Steel Grid,
1 onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, halved
1 strip of lemon peel, about 2cm wide and 8cm long
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon dried thyme
3 strong liquorice (soft or hard) sweets, or 2 teaspoons liquorice syrup
1.5–1.7kg piece of good fatty pork belly, rind removed
200g frozen blackcurrants
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons mustard powder
plenty of Maldon sea salt flakes
Light your charcoals. Only when the embers appear whitish-grey and orange are they ready to cook on directly.
Pour the cassis and water into a large saucepan and lay the pork belly in it. Around the pork, add the onion, garlic, lemon peel, peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, and liquorice.
Put the pan on the hob and bring the liquid up to a gentle wobble. Cover the pan with some doubled-over foil and close it up around the edges, leaving one or two airholes here or there. This will steam the meat while bringing the liquid to a simmer.
Cook the pork like this for 2–2½ hours. It should be tender to a deep prod with a knife, but not falling apart. Remove the meat from the pan and allow to cool. The sauce should be the consistency of syrup. Pour the frozen blackcurrants into the pan, bring the sauce back to a simmer and when hot, press all the currants with a potato masher.
Put the onion quarters from the sauce into a glass bowl and press the rest of the sauce through a sieve on top of the onions. Stir in the vinegar and allow to cool.
Light your charcoals. Only when the embers appear whitish grey and orange are they ready to cook on directly.
In the meantime, divide the pork in two and scatter the mustard over your work surface along with plenty of salt. Roll the pork in it. Using a pastry brush, slap the blackcurrant lacquer over one side of each piece of pork and lay it, painted side down, over the coals.
Paint the unpainted side now. Slap some around the edges and ends too. When the side that’s cooking appears to be blistered and charring, turn it over and brush with more sauce.
Repeat the brushing and turning stages until all the sauce has been used up. Occasionally give the pork another good sprinkle of salt. Remember, too, that the sides of the pork will need attention with painting and charring, so stand them on their narrow sides.
All in all, the two pieces of belly want to cook for about 20 minutes over the embers. By the time they’re ready, they should have built up many layers of sticky, charred, crusty, oozy deliciousness.
Very good eaten with a salad of mustardy leaves, sharply dressed with lemon, red wine vinegar, salt, and oil. I also like to accompany the pork with boiled potatoes, cooked to the point that they are crumbly at the edges, then mixed with Dijon mustard, capers, butter, finely chopped raw red onion, salt and pepper.