My (wonderful) Father-in-law; Bob Davies is a fabulous cook. Over the years I have lived in Australia we have often joked we should start up a restaurant together. You would too if you tasted his soda battered fish; sour cream pastry meatloaf or his spinach and ricotta cannelloni... *Drool*
When I lived in Melbourne I loved nothing more than going down to Bob’s house, which is perched high up on a hill overlooking Port Phillip Bay. The views back up to Melbourne are simply to die for. Whilst it was always great to go for dinner at anytime of the year, it was extra special to head down during the winter months, especially in July when it was at it’s chilliest in Melbourne (take the girl out of Ireland)...
Bob or Sheila (my (extra wonderful) mother-in-law) would always light the open fire and there was/is nothing cosier in this world that sitting in their sitting-room, listening to the wind howling around outside, wrapped up in a jumper, open fire roaring, enjoying a bottle (or 4) of good Aussie red and what has turned out to be what we have now christened; “Bob’s if not the world’s, BEST roast port belly”.
I am a demon for a good bit of salty pork cracking and this one, is without a doubt, the best one I have ever had, other people who have cooked it too agree. Having eaten pork belly in good restaurants in both Melbourne and Sydney and further a-field but to date, Bob's pork is yet to be beaten. It is a total winner.. There is little fat under the cracking, roast pork does need a little to keep the meat moist, but unlike some places who serve you a good 2 inches of (inedible) squidgy fat attached to the crackling, this recipe produces meat which literally falls off the skin in a beautiful slow-cooked manner.
When I asked Bob to send me the recipe, I was surprised to find out it is actually a Jamie Oliver recipe, but on reflection I was not quite so, as Jamie Oliver does indeed tend to produce some of the best roast meat recipes around.
Whether it be Jamie's or now, to us; 'Bob's', either way it really is a total winner..
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1.5kg pork belly
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 x red onions, halved
2 x carrots, peeled and halved lengthways
2 x sticks of celery, chopped in half
1 x bulb of garlic, skin on, broken into cloves
1 x small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked
600ml water or stock
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1. Preheat your oven to full whack, it needs to be at least 220°C/425°F/gas 7.
2. Place your pork on a clean work surface, skin-side upwards. Get yourself a small sharp knife and make scores about a centimetre apart through the skin into the fat, but not so deep that you cut into the meat. Rub salt right into all the scores you’ve just made, pulling the skin apart a little if you have to. Brush any excess salt off the surface of the skin and turn it over. Season the underside of the meat with a little more salt and a little black pepper.
3. Place your pork, skin side-up, in a roasting tray big enough to hold the pork and the vegetables, and place in the hot oven.
4. Roast for about half an hour until the skin of the pork has started to puff up and you can see it turning into crackling. Turn the heat down to 180°C/350°F/gas 4 and roast for another hour.
5. Take out of the oven and baste with the fat in the bottom of the tray. Carefully lift the pork up and transfer to a chopping board. Add all the veg, garlic and thyme to the tray and stir them into the fat. Place the pork on top of everything and pop the tray back in the oven. Roast for another hour. By this time the meat should be meltingly soft and tender. Carefully move the meat to a serving dish, cover with tin foil and leave to rest while you make your gravy.
6. Spoon away any fat in the tray, then add the water or stock and place the tray on the hob.
7. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to scrape up all those lovely sticky tasty bits on the bottom of the tray. When you’ve got a nice, dark gravy, pour it through a sieve into a bowl or gravy boat, using your spoon to really push all the goodness of the veg through the sieve. Add a little more salt and pepper if it needs it.
8. Serve the pork with the crackling, gravy, some creamy mashed potato, nice fresh greens and a dollop of English mustard.