I bought an enormous pork belly from the supermarket yesterday morning. Like, huge – I think it was over 2 kilos (and remember there’s just the two of us). In my mind the thinness of the cut justified a larger piece but clearly it doesn’t work that way.
The skin was not as dry as I would have liked (dry skin=good crackling) so I salted it liberally and then popped it in the fridge in the hope that it would help to dry in the few hours I had before it needed to go into the oven. When I took it out later, it still wasn’t dry enough, so I decided to improvise and roll the cut to help get the best crackling possible.
I had nothing suitable for me to roll the pork with – it would have been lovely with some chopped dates or even just some fresh thyme. Luckily the cut has those lovely layers of fat that help to keep the roast tender and juicy. It’s also the first time I’ve rolled pork myself – usually the butcher does it for me. And to be totally honest, I made enough of a mess without addditional help from trying to add stuffing. We had so much left over we had pulled pork sandwiches for lunch and have a roast pork dinner again tonight (sans crackling boo).
Roasting was quite daunting for me at the beginning, but I have found over the years that if you follow some basic rules you can’t really go wrong – it’s very forgiving, unlike a pastry, for example.
My usual gauge for roasting pork (I almost always use pork belly because I love the layers of fat) is to simply season with salt and pepper, then pop into a preheated oven at 220C for 30-40 mins to get the crackling going, and then either 1 hour for every kilo of meat at 180C or 2 hours for every kilo of meat at 160C. This has worked for me every time, but you can also always use a thermometer – the last thing you want is to have to your apartment (or house) smelling of that delicious roast and then carve it only to find it needs more time in the oven. I couldn’t bear to delay the gratification! Let the meat rest for a good 20-30 minutes before you carve it up.
I serve my roast pork with roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, leeks, onions and garlic (which goes all mellow and sweet after you roast for an hour).
Oh, and if the crackling is still not up to crispy par, then once you take the meat out, carefully take a knife and cut the skin off, and while the meat is resting, pop the crackling back in the oven on high or even grill it, although I find the oven gives better results – it seems to go puffy when you grill it. Watch the crackling like a hawk, particularly when grilling – you don’t want any burned bits because they are uneatable. And who can take that risk when crackling is such a premium??