We used to own two Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, somewhat cruelly
christened 'Sweet' and 'Sour'. Not that they were ever destined for
the pot; they spent their days snoring in the barn, chewing lazily on
leftovers from the kitchen. Soon after their arrival, Riley the duck
(easily slighted, not regularly clipped of wing) made an ill-advised
bid for freedom. The last I saw of him was a scribble of black
feathers flapping enthusiastically towards the fox-filled wilderness.
It may seem macabre to segue from family swine anecdotes to crispy
pork recipes, but for me it compounds the importance of knowing my meat's
heritage; making sure that the animal led a happy life, raised in good conditions.
I learnt the method of twice-cooking pork belly a couple of years ago - it's a winner.
Panch phoran pork belly with roasted grapes
A piece of pork belly
1tbsp Panch phoron (an equal mix of Coriander, Cumin, Mustard, Onion and Fenugreek seeds)
1 Star anise
Heat your oven to 150C/fan 130C/gas 2. Crush the Panch phoron in a pestle and mortar, add salt, then rub the mix into the pork belly. Place the pork belly skin side up in a deep, oven-proof dish, then completely cover with vegetable oil (so that it's submerged - don't worry, the oil won't soak into the meat, it actually draws fat out). Cover with foil and cook in the oven for 3 hours.
Remove the meat from the oil and let it cool for a bit on a board. Put piece of greaseproof paper on a baking sheet, then transfer the meat onto the paper. Place another sheet of greaseproof on top of the meat, then complete the sandwich with another baking sheet on top. Weigh down with tin cans and leave in the fridge overnight.
Heat the oven to 220C/ fan 200C/ gas 7. Put the pork in an oiled baking dish, nestle the grapes next to it and drizzle with olive oil. I wedged a star anise in between the grape stalks for a bit of extra flavour. Roast the 20-25 minutes, 'til the pork skin is crispy, and the grapes are squidgy.