Having somehow failed to win last year's pancake competition Cowie and I had a long hard look at ourselves. We realised we'd let ourselves down and our families down. So we went away and put our thinking caps on. The thinking caps worked brilliantly. Inspired by watching Heston's programme about how to make the perfect crispy aromatic duck and our love of pork belly we decided to try something new. Something original. Something no one has ever done before!
Chinese, crispy aromatic pork belly... mmmmm....
So we went to visit Chadwick's in Balham where we were sold a glorious piece of pork belly. Dry to the touch and butchered like a work of art. As soon as I removed it from it's wax paper jacket I knew we were in for a treat.
The first step was to salt the skin and wrap the whole joint in kitchen towel before popping in the fridge for a few hours to ensure the skin was primed for top class crackling. Cowie arrived back from the gym with a plethora of spices. We dusted the belly with half a jar of five spice and a sprinkle of salt before roasting the joint on a wire rack at a decent heat. The intense heat browned the outside and filled the house wafts of the east.
After forty minutes we removed the pork belly and bowed down before its golden glory!
Looking good. It was now time for phase 2. Remove the pork and rack. Place to one side. Pour a couple of tins of peaches and two more of lyches into the roasting pan. Make sure they have been preserved in syrup as you need the sugar for the sauce later. Then pour in plenty of soy sauce. My bottle had a jammed lid so I was only able to trickle it in, which makes it hard to suggest how much is needed! Then throw in 2 star anise and a stick of cinnamon. Depending on how much heat you like, add some chili. You need it for some background warmth and depth. Sprinkle on more five spice and give it all a stir. Place the pork belly on top of the fruity mixture. You'll also need to add some rice wine vinegar to add some sharpness to offset the sweetness. It will look a bit like this...
Tun the oven down to around 150 and place the pan at the base of the oven. There's no need to cover it. Then you need to find something to occupy yourself with for 5 or 6 hours whilst the house fills with incredible smells. We played squash. I smashed my racket.
When you remove the belly from the oven it should look a bit like this.
The next thing to do is peel the semi crackled crackling from the top of the belly. Pop it on a wire rack add some salt and turn on the grill. After five or ten minutes have a look and you should be the proud owner of some light, crispy crackling.
This is the ideal time to finish the sauce off. Add half a jar of hoisin sauce to the juice and mix around. It should thicken and take on the glossy feel you get in Chinese restaurants.
Next, remove the pork belly and the fruit and pour off the sauce. Allow it all to cool completely before storing in the fridge.
I marched into work with a thermos flask of my special sauce, a tupperware filled with glorious pork belly and a zipper bag full of crackling. With a stroke of amazing fortune I found myself in Chinatown at lunchtime which allowed me to pick up a pack of Chinese pancakes.
We arrived at the pancake party fully loaded. Cowie started chopping some spring onions and cucumber whilst I made straight for the oven where I reheated the pork belly before shredding it into shards of juicy flesh.
We served the hoisin sauce in Chinese dishes and placed the crunched up crackling on a separate plate and let everyone tuck in as if it was a shared starter in a Chinese restaurant. Without wanting to blow our own trumpet, this is probably one of the best things we have ever cooked. It was salty, crunchy, sweet, juicy, deep and more importantly gorgeous. Take a look for yourself...
Our hard work paid off. Our pancake was voted best savoury pancake of the night. So now the pressure is on as defending champions to raise our game and take the pancake innovation up a level. Watch this space.
For other pork belly recipes have a look at:
Brixton Pork Belly
Chinese Pork Belly
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