Whenever I try to imagine life as a vegetarian, almost always, the first thing that pops into my head is "What? No roast pork with crackling?!" Bacon, lamb chops, and roast chicken are almost as perfect, but I almost believe that something other-worldly is involved in the creation of perfectly crisp, salty skin teamed up with falling-apart-tender meat beneath. I will often do the pork belly as a part of a Chinese meal, but my favorite is still a simple, spice-rubbed joint served with roasted root veg. If you're in the States, or anywhere else where pork with the skin on is scarce, Go to the meat counter at a Mexican or Asian market, they know that the skin is the best part. Anyone with an iPhone knows how awful the camera is, so I apologize for the picture...
Crispy Belly of Pork Roasted with Root Veg
1Kg (2 lbs) pork belly, skin on and ribs attached.
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
500g fresh small beets
500g large carrots
2 medium yellow onions
5-6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
bunch spring onions
1tbsp olive oil
Heat you oven as high as you can, and while it warms up, lay the pork belly skin-side-up in a large roasting tin. Pat as dry as you can with paper towels and use a VERY sharp knife to score the skin from side to side about 5mm (1/4") apart. You want to cut far enough down that you're going through the skin, but not the fat or into the meat. This will help the fat run off and promote super crispy skin.
Use you hands to stretch the skin so that the cuts open up a bit. Sprinkle over the 1 tbsp salt, caraway and fennel seeds and rub into the skin, making sure to get as much as you can into the little slits.
Put into the super-hot oven for 25 minutes before reducing the heat to 170C/340F to cook for two hours.
Meanwhile, prep the veggies. Peel and halve the baby beetroots and peel and cut the carrots into chunks about the same size as the beets. Peel and quarter the onions and give the garlic cloves a whack with the side of your knife. Toss this lot in the olive oil and remaining teaspoon of salt and tip into the area around the pork roast before it settles down for its 2-hour low/slow roast.
You'll want to turn the veg every half hour or so to prevent the natural sugars burning and ensure even roasting.
Fifteen minutes before everything is done, toss in the spring onions so that they cook, but don't lose their colour or texture. Test the root veggies' doneness by inserting the tip of a sharp knife into the centre. Give them a few minutes longer if you need to, it takes a LOT to overcook pork belly in this way. Tap the skin with the knife also, and if not yet hard and crunchy, pop it under a hot grill for a few minutes. Whatever you do though, don't leave the pork belly unattended under the grill, as it can burn very easily.
To serve, cut the belly in one piece from the ribs. Turn it skin-side-down and use a sharp knife to slice down through the meat and skin. This is far easier than trying to cut through the brittle skin first, as the meat below will be meltingly tender and will just get squashed.
I like it just with the accompanying veggies but mashed potatoes are also lovely with it.
This is not the lowest fat meal you can eat, but it's worth every calorie. Eat fruit and salad tomorrow.