Free Range Pork Belly with the BEST crackling and bone broth veggies.
My pork belly love affair started late in life.
I was a vegetarian for 12 years until I met my (now) husband - avid carnivore. And although we don't eat a lot of meat, we do enjoy it occasionally. 1. because I'm not used to eating lots of meat and 2. because we always buy free range or organic meats.
The price of high quality meat can be restrictive. But that's sort of the point. It shouldn't be cheap to eat meat. Meat costs a lot of money to properly produce. You need to feed and house and take care of the animal for years until it is ready to be made into what we buy. And then the killing (yes, I said it) needs to be humane and ethical too.
This all costs money.
And for me, it is something I am willing to pay for. Because it is important to me that what animals I eat have been taken care of properly. I have no problems with eating animals, but I will not support industries that exploit them.
As a consequence, we rarely buy meat from the supermarket. We will occasionally get the Cleavers meat and sausages but for all other things we go to our local free range butcher (Goldfield Organics) and order our meat directly from the farm. At the moment, we are working our way through half a lamb from Dunluce Lamb and once that is done, we will be getting half a pig from Zed and Co.
Hand on heart I can tell you that you can taste the difference in free range ethically raised animals.
The fat tastes better - all animals, including humans store their toxins in their fat cells. So animals who are stressed will store the byproducts of stress hormone cortisol in their fat and those who are fed sub optimal food and/or medications will store these in their fat too.
The fat is evenly spaced and melts when cooked - giving you amazing crispy bits and full flavoured juicy meat. When the fat melts into the pan, you can use it to cook your veggies in, like I do in this recipe.
And fat is good for you.
Your brain and nervous system is around 80% fat.
You need fat to make your hormones.
A high fat diet keeps you full for longer.
So, onto the pork belly (that I bought from Zed and Co. The broth I use in this recipe I also made from trotters that I got from Zed & Co as well. The BEST broth EVER by the way.
Pork Belly with the BEST crackling
1x 1.5kg pork belly
2 teaspoons of rock salt
1 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 bulb of fennel cut into quarters
2 green apples (wax free), cut in half
1 large brown onion, cut in half
2 cups of bone broth
4 potatoes - diced
1 medium sweet potato - diced
2 medium carrots - diced
Heavy cast iron pan or heavy roasting tray with deep sides (it holds the heat better)
Mortar and pestle
Make Me Up
Pre-heat your oven to as high as it will go - most will go to about 250degC.
Place you fennel seeds and salt in your mortar and pestle them until you have a fine fennel salt powder.
Take your pork belly and on the skin/fat side, make some deep cuts - BEING CAREFUL NOT TO PEIRCE THE FLESH (this will result in the juice running out of the meat and the meat will be tough) about 1cm apart, parallel in one direction, then turn the pork belly 90deg and do more cuts, 1cm apart and parallel to form a diamond pattern in the fat (this allows the fat to render and come out, making it super crispy).
In the bottom of your roasting pan, place your apple, fennel and onion in one layer.
Now rub your fennel salt all over your pork belly, making sure you gets it in the cuts you just made in the fat. Place your seasoned pork belly ontop of your cut vegetables and apple in the roasting tray. The aim of putting the belly on a bed of vegetables is two fold - 1. the bottom of the belly wont burn and 2. it keeps the belly as one flat piece, this will allow the cracking to be more even and the belly will cut better too.
In total you will cook your belly for 2 hours.
Place your roasting pan with your belly and veggies into the oven for 30min.
After 30 minutes, add your bone broth to the bottom of your roasting pan and turn the oven down to 150degC. Cook for another 30min.
Now add your other diced vegetables (the carrots, potato and sweet potato) to the pan around the belly. Toss them in the pan juices and return to the oven to cook at 150degC for a further 30min.
After 30min has passed, turn the oven back up to it's highest setting for another 30min.
Now your pork should be soft and your crackling crispy. If your crackling needs a little more help, just pop it under a high grill for a few minutes till it is crisp, but rescue it before it burns.
Remove your pork from the pan and place it on a chopping board. Allow it to rest for 15min. Then cut in thick slices, against the meat grain and serve it up alongside your veggies and some steamed greens.
Need an idea for dessert? One of my paleo cakes would hit the spot. Get the recipes for a lamington cake, a humming bird cake and a double chocolate cake, complete with icings and decoration tips here.