take it all with a belly full of salt

We don’t eat a ton of meat, it has been gradually receding from out meals, like the tide or someone’s hairline, to the point where we probably only eat it once a week – if that. I don’t know why. I mean, it has got more expensive, but it’s not as though I made a proper stand or decision at any point. Analysis aside, if the right recipe comes along I’ll make it, so today I’m serving up pork belly, care of a fantastic recipe by local epicure Martin Bosley. I found it many miles off the ground, in the pages of an inflight magazine – tore it out, tucked it in my handbag, and dreamed about it till I landed back in Wellington again. I love near-on everything that the terrific, radiant, humble pig offers up – bacon, sausages, ham, ribs – but pork belly is particularly special (admittedly, “particularly special” is what I’d be saying if I was talking about bacon or ribs here too) with its tooth-yieldingly, saltily sticky and fatty wondrousness.

Please excuse (sigh, again) the atrocious photos. Thought I knew my camera, but concede I’m no good at taking pictures when it’s dark. Next week’s will be better, I promise.
This recipe is extremely straightforward. The only real difficulty is when you have to faff around turning the heavy, boiling-hot pork over partway through cooking – use a couple of pairs of tongs, some oven mitts, and take care. I didn’t use oven mitts, and a splash from the bubbling toffee-like heat of the marinade leaping from the roasting dish and landing on the tender inner flesh of my wrist is like…almost enough to make me vegetarian. The ingredients feel easy enough to get hold of – I didn’t have any star anise so used fennel seeds instead, figuring they’d give that licorice twist flavour, although admittedly without looking anywhere near as pretty. If you don’t have an orange you could probably use bottled juice, a lemon, tamarind or even some vinegar for a different sour vibe.

Martin Bosley’s Pork Belly

Cheers to (surprise!) Martin Bosley for the recipe.

2kg pork belly
120g honey
3 T oyster sauce
1 orange
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 red chilli
4 whole star anise
salt and pepper

Wash the pork belly, place in a deep roasting dish. Mix together the honey, oyster sauce, juice and zest from the orange, and garlic in a bowl. Chop the chilli and add to the marinade along with the star anise and a little salt and pepper. Scrape the bowl of marinade over the pork with a spatula, turning it over so it’s properly covered. Refrigerate for at least an hour, overnight if you can.

When you’re ready to cook it, take it out of the fridge and set your oven to 180 C/350 F. Roast for 90 minutes, turning over occasionally. Slice and serve with steamed rice.
There is a lot of honey in this recipe but it’s not like you’re having pudding for dinner here – the honey caramelises in the oven, bubbling and hissing into the juicy fat from the pork and salty, pungent oyster sauce to create a fairly magical, darkly sweet and savoury flavour. Even though the recipe is simple, everything about the pork is worked with here – the honey and orange points up its sweetness, while the oyster sauce emphasises its saltiness and the anise and chilli distract from its richness. Brilliant.
Edit: I used free range pork and definitely recommend it, if you have the means.
Leftovers can be turned into a comforting noodle soup with stock, greens, broccoli, chilli, soba noodles (or any that you like of course), soy sauce, mint, and so on.
It has been a bit of a weird time in Wellington lately, making a soothing noodle-strewn broth entirely appropriate. What with the grimly embarrassing and regrettably expensive Wellywood sign apparently an unstoppable idea, plus our branch of the Real Groovy music shop and the Grow From Here garden centre – both practically Tim’s and my neighbours and places that we’d spent a lot of time – shutting down. Hopefully something happy eventually comes from these doors closing. This morning the big story was that the Wellington Phoenix football team were going to be relocating to Auckland. I flag after 20 minutes of a game and I was dismayed, so imagine how Tim, obsessed as he is, reacted. Luckily the whole story seems to be an out-of-control rumour and completely untrue. Unfortunately, the Wellywood sign is not. One thing that can be counted on though, is The Food Show – Tim and I went on Sunday and while there were noticeably less exhibitors this time round it was still an extremely fun time with bargain-ly prices and nibbles a-plenty. But no Ray McVinnie! Practically needed smelling salts when I found out he wasn’t doing a cooking demonstration. Luckily there was plenty of wine to sample…
Title via: Chris Knox, local wonder, flexing his wordsmithery in A Song To Welcome The Onset Of Maturity from 1995’s Songs of Me and You.
Music lately:

Doubly sad news came over the weekend – first that Jeff Conaway had died, and then Gil Scott-Heron too. I love Scott-Heron’s music and poetry – the world has lost any beautiful strong words and musical greatness he was sure to have continued to contribute. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised remains amazing. Jeff Conaway, despite evidently having a decent enough voice to tour with the Broadway production of Grease, wasn’t really given much to go on with song-wise in the film itself, which is a shame. RIP to them both.

On a mildly happier note, the song Nothing To Lose by The Adults rules.

Next time: As with the last blog post, I got another cake recipe from my childhood – turns out it’s vegan, which’ll make a nice contrast to all this porkiness.

10 thoughts on “take it all with a belly full of salt

  1. allsugarspice says:

    Martin's recipe is very similar to how I braise/roast my belly pork. Instead of oranges, I use dark sweet sticky soy sauce (kecap manis) instead. And I use leftovers in exactly the same way you do yours as well!! It's great in fried rice too.


  2. Foodycat says:

    I don't know much of Scott-Heron's work, but The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is a song for the ages.

    This pork looks lovely – I really like the sound of trying it with tamarind too.


  3. Hannah says:

    Oh gosh, your photos are still better than what my near-dead camera can come up with in daytime!

    And hey, what's wrong with pudding for dinner? šŸ˜€


  4. hungryandfrozen says:

    Zo: Thanks – I love them too. And yeah, mulled wine would be perfect in this weather. Even though I'm typing this first thing in the morning…

    AllSugarSpice: Sounds good – guess I'm just going to have to buy some more pork belly.

    Foodycat: Isn't it just. Yeah, tamarind would be nice against all that richness!

    Hannah: Oh pshhh. But yes, pudding for dinner, just about as good as breakfast for dinner šŸ˜€

    Sue: If in doubt, my guess would be that if you've got a low temperature on your oven and plenty of time, you can't go wrong šŸ™‚


  5. Emma says:

    Anything with cilantro on it captures my fancy! I hope that's cilantro anyway (not an intended camera dig; I know the pains of trying to photograph in the evening). I know nothing of this Wellywood or of the musics you mention, but I do know that I too love all things pig (except pork chops)!


  6. Mairi@Toast says:

    Now I want pork belly for lunch! And such a tasty way with leftovers too. And if you love all things pig…you should make some bacon…easy, works out cheaper I think & the taste…oh it is good.


  7. Nigel Olsen says:

    Grief, one of my uncles is a huge Heron-Scott fan, but he didn't particularly like the last album he did with Jamie XX (which I'm actually quite partial to).

    As for your pork dish, well, pork = win! Whether it's pork chops, hocks, trotters, belly, it's all so good, & as you say free range tastes so much better. Star anise has a sweet note which sings well with pork – nice work šŸ™‚


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