The Lovely Bones: Many ways with Pork Belly

So, at Daughter and Heiress’s request, we had pork belly for Christmas dinner, rather than the traditional bird (which, to be honest, we’ve almost never had). We went to Christie’s of Morningside for it, a fine butcher: unfortunately Gus’s idea of ‘pork belly for three’ turned out to be half of the whole animal, including a substantial part of its ribcage.

I appreciate this is very much a first world problem, of course. However, in the interests of sharing a few recipes, here’s what we did/will do with it:

Day One: Slow Roast Spiced Pork Belly (Two Ways)

Bring the beast out of the fridge early and let it warm up to room temperature. Meantime heat the oven to 140C/275F/Gas 1  – the aim is low and slow. Rub in salt and spice to the non-rind side of the meat, including the ribcage if you have it. I used Chinese 5 spice for one half, and Kabsah (a really nice Middle Eastern blend) on the other.

Fire up a frying pan and brown all sides of the meat to seal it in – incidentally, if you’re a fan of crackling, this won’t deliver it, unless perhaps you fry it really hard at this stage.

…and that’s it – put it in the oven, covered, for three hours or longer. You’ll know when it’s done, and it just needs some tatties and a fresh vegetable to complete it.

Day Two: Pulled Pork and Cream Cheese Sarnies

Speaks for itself, really. The underside of the rind, cooled, yields up some lovely moist meat which you can put in a roll with the cream cheese you didn’t use up in the smoked salmon blinis.

Day Three: Pork Rib Paella

There remained the ribs, which still had substantial amounts of meat on them. I decided to boil them in a pot of brown rice, meantime frying up some vegetables in olive oil with paella spice. When the rice was done, so was everything else – I chucked the vegetables into the rice pot, and then briefly extracted the bones to take the meat off, putting the latter back into the pot.

You’re left with a rich, saucy mix of pork, marrow juice, veg and rice which in reality is a close to a cocido recipe as a paella. However, I kind of liked the alliteration in the name, and it reminded me a bit of one of the best paellas I’ve ever had – in Valencia, unsurprisingly – which had little nuggets of pork as the meat element.

Day X: Pork Surprise

All of that still left enough roast meat to cube up and freeze – you can have too much of a good thing at once, even Christie’s pork. I’ll probably curry it, with some tomatoes.

And that’s it! No great philosophical musings for the first post of 2023: next time, though. In the meantime, have a Happy and Healthy New Year, everyone (apart from the obvious warmongering bastards, obviously)!




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