A couple of weeks ago, I went to a birthday party for a Viking Chiro, where much amazing food was served, along with large quantities of schnapps. The most coveted morsels, however, were the fluffy curls of crackling that accompanied the Danish pork roasts. They vanished within minutes, to much contented crunching.
I don’t know about you, but I’d never before mastered the art of crispy crackling. All my previous pork roasts have come with a rubbery outer layer that provides an experience somewhat like chewing glutinous, salty tyres. Imagine my glee when the Viking Chiro’s fabulous wife explained to me (while following the wrong BMW to the ice-skating rink) how easily properly crunchy crackling could be achieved She told me (while making a sudden U-turn and hot-footing it back towards the N1) that you simply roast your roll of pork in 4cm of water with an onion for about an hour and a half.
A few hours later (with a bruise on my behind and slightly wet jeans) I went in search of rolled pork so that I too could make a Viking roast. Alas, there was none to be found at the supermarket. After 15 minutes of prowling up and down the meat section in disbelief, I found one smallish pork belly hiding behind a few chops. The problem was, the belly was quite flat – not the type of roast my friend had described to me at all. Nevertheless, I bought it, just in case I couldn’t be bothered to go to another supermarket. Groceries are all very well, but I draw the line at doing them twice in one day.
Since I’d correctly estimated my laziness levels, I now had to figure out another way of roasting my pork and crisping my crackling. All the recipes for pork belly I found online said that, at some point, you had to put the temperature of the oven up. However, they disagreed about the temperature (anything from 180 C to 280 C), how long to do it for, and when to do it (either right at the start or right at the end). I decided to be safe and use the hottest oven setting (280 C) for 20 minutes both at the start and finish.
The only thing the recipes did agree on was that you should roast pork belly on top of something. It didn’t sound like it mattered much what: onions, garlic, apples, ferrets (no, sorry, I made that last one up). Since I had lots of apples and a few leeks left over from the chicken pie, I used those. I’m afraid I cannot give you accurate oven times because our dinner guests were late and I kept faffing around, taking the roast out of the oven, putting it in again, roasting the veggies (on a separate tray) at the same time, etc, etc. I did get the feeling, however, that as long as the tinfoil is snugly tucked around the roast, and the crackling hasn’t actually turned black, it would be hard to overcook this.
In the end it turned out perfectly: tasty and tender and with the crackliest crackling I could desire. Our female dinner guest even exclaimed, “Do you work?!”, which, as we all know, is the highest possible praise.
- 1kg + pork belly roast
- 3 apples (any kind)
- 2 or 3 leeks
- 4 or 5 cloves of garlic
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Fresh thyme
What to do
- Preheat your oven to its highest temperature.
- Line a small roasting dish with heavy foil.
- Slice your apples, leeks and 3 or 4 cloves of garlic and layer the bottom of dish with them.
- Scour your pork skin as best you can (it takes elbow grease and a sharp knife), taking care not to slice all the way through to the flesh.
My rather clumsy attempt at diagonal scouring.
- Rub the sea salt, a clove of chopped garlic, the lemon zest and thyme all over the surface of the pork skin and into the cracks.
- Lay the belly on top of the apples and leeks and tuck the foil around it snugly so that just the skin is exposed.
- Put in the oven for about 20 minutes on the high temperature to start crisping the skin. Turn the temperature down to 160 C and roast for at least another half an hour for every 500g (you can make this longer, depending on how well you like your pork done).
- Just before serving, turn the oven to its highest setting again and leave for another 15-20 minutes, keeping an eye on the crackling to make sure it doesn’t burn (a little bit of black is okay though).
This is the pork belly just after the initial exposure to the furnace. It got even crispier after the second blast at the end, but I felt it would be awkward to photograph the roast in front of guests.
- Remove from foil and leave to stand on a dish for 10 minutes before carving.
- In the meantime, carefully lift the foil out of the dish and pour the apple, leek and pork juice mixture into a jug. Blend until smooth and decant into a gravy tureen to serve with the roast.
Wine pairing suggestion
Jacques Bruére Brut Reserve
Obviously you need to celebrate your crispy crackling with some sparkly bubbly! Thanks to our dinner guests, we celebrated in 5-star style. Follow it up with the Vrede en Lust Viognier, which is rich and full enough to support the flavours of the pork belly.
- Preparation: 20 minutes (mostly spent trying to scour the skin).
- Cooking: anywhere between 2 and 4 hours, depending on the size of your roast and the hotness of your oven. Sorry. I did warn you.
- 1 chopping board
- 1 roasting pan
- 1 knife
- 1 grater
- 1 stick blender
- 1 jug