Yes I know it’s not a lovely photo. But then pork belly, like most cheap cuts of meat, is untidy to look at, a bit lumpen to handle and unlikely to win a beauty contest compared to a fillet steak or organic chicken. However, it is cheap (even now that it is oh-so-trendy), easy to cook and bloody delicious. Not sure it needs much more to recommend it. This recipe, for example, is one that I have made over and over, especially when I really want some sticky pork from a Chinese restaurant but can’t justify the cost. A kilo’s worth of belly, which will feed four, can sometimes leave you with change from a fiver and you’re not going to get that in Gerrard Street.
And it really doesn’t take long; an hour (or less if you cook 500g) of poaching, during which time you don’t have to be in the kitchen, followed by 15-20 minutes of sautéeing at a high heat with some garlic, ginger and spring onions. Throw on a bit of oyster and soy sauce and you have a feast in about 90 minutes. If you are really organised, you could cook the pork the day before (it keeps well, once cooled off, in the fridge) then just do the sautéeing after work. The advantage of that is that you can easily remove the fat once it’s cool, which you won’t be able to do if you cook it all on one day. In fact, the only disadvantage with this is that you do need at least two pans, three if you have rice with it, four if you want some steamed vegetables too. I am truly averse to washing up but, for this, I will willingly stick on the rubber gloves.
Twice-cooked belly pork (adapted from Riverford Farm Cook Book)
For four good portions (or two and lots of leftovers for the next day) you will need:
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
sunflower (or other neutral oil), 1 tablespoon (25ml)
belly pork, 1kg
bunch of spring onions
fresh ginger, about 2cm
oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon (25ml)
soy sauce, 1 tablespoon (25ml)
fresh coriander, a small handful
steamed basmati rice, to serve
steamed bok/pak choi, to serve
1. Cut the pork into 2cm thick slices, put them in a large, lidded saucepan and cover with cold water.
2. Peel the ginger and trim the green tops and ends off the spring onions and add these trimmings to the saucepan. Then chop the ginger and spring onions into small pieces and peel and chop the garlic too.
3. Bring the pan of water, pork and trimmings to the boil then cover, lower the heat and simmer for about an hour or until the pork is tender and cooked through.
4. Once cooked, remove the pork slices from the broth and leave to cool. Keep the broth in case you need it in the final steps. If you’re doing this stage in advance leave the pork in the water, which will solidify into an amazing stock, and refrigerate once cool.
5. When you are ready to eat, cut the pork widthways into chunks then put the sunflower oil in a large frying pan or wok and heat it until very hot. Add the pork pieces and cook for about ten minutes, stirring and turning them until they are brown all over. The hot fat will spit so be careful. If you are making steamed rice you need to start it about now too.
6. Once the pork is brown all over and, probably, starting to disintegrate a little, add the garlic and ginger and stir, cooking them together for a minute or two. If you are steaming some bok choi to go with it, do that about now too.
7. Finally add the oyster and soy sauces, spring onions and, if you want a bit of juice, some of the pork cooking broth/stock. Stir to mix everything together and cook for a few more minutes. Finally, add the fresh coriander, stir and serve.