Pork belly is my favourite thing in the world. There.. I’ve said it. Many of you will agree and the good news for us is that the world is full of pigs. Yup I had to say that too. In my opinion very few cuts of meat come close to the amazing texture and flavour combination a crispy pork belly offers. Layers of soft meat and rich fat covered in a blistered up crispy skin. It’s what dreams are made of. For me at least.
I am in the process of writing a few recipes that involve cooking food on the fire and the occasion we South Africans call a braai. Basically the rest of the world call it BBQ.
“very few cuts of meat come close to the amazing texture and flavour combination a crispy pork belly offers”
Salting, spicing and leaving the pork belly for a day or two really works wonder. You get an awesome concentrated flavour, buttery meat and crisp as you like skin. All the things we love so much about a well cooked crispy pork belly.
You can use pretty much any spices, herbs and citrus. I like using lemon, lime, orange fresh marjoram and a bit of pepper and coriander. It’s simple and extremely effective. Preparing the pork belly is 50% of the success. First you want to buy a nicely marbled pork belly with about equal amounts of fat and meat. Make sure it’s good quality as no methods can rescue a bad raw product.
“Preparing the pork belly is 50% of the success”
Firstly cut the skin and rub the salt, herbs and citrus peel all over the skin and meat. Cover and let it rest for 24 – 48 hours. When it’s done marinating do not wash off the rub. Very important.
Make a nice fire and cook the pork belly at an angle or at good hight above the fire. Keep monitoring the situation. Moving some embers or burning wood around to make sure the pork belly do not cook too fast or burn. Also never let your fire die. This happens when you drink too much and forget about it. So I’ve heard.
The whole process takes about 3 – 4 hours so relax but don’t fall asleep. Turn the pork belly often and make sure it cooks evenly. The last 3 minutes of cooking will happen close to the hot embers as we want to colour the skin and make it puff a little. Take care not to burn the skin at this point. The crispy puffed up skin is the holy grail and you will feel bad if you ruin it on the homestretch.
It’s a perfect example of something simply and deliciously cooked using methods that date back to our origins of cooking. I love eating this pork belly straight from the fire with a squeeze of lemon or some salsa verde. You may of course do whatever you like with your hard-earned goodies but simple is best in this case.