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Aromatic Home-Cured Porc Belly with Amontillado Sauce by SherryMonster44

Serves: 6-8 | Prep Time: 40 minutes + curing and marinating time | Cooking Time: 5 hours

For Porc From Wales Week 2021, we teamed up with foodie @sherrymonster44 - aka Owen Morgan of the 44 Group - to show why we should be choosing to source our porc locally. Owen founded Bar 44 alongside his brother Tom and sister Natalie in 2002, having fallen in love with Spanish food, drink and culture throughout their formative years. Since then, Bar 44 and Asador 44 has grown to include five restaurants, in Cardiff, Cowbridge, Penarth and Bristol, with Mercado 44 also launched to great success adapting through 2020.

Here’s what Owen says about his recipe:

“This is a fool-proof recipe for an ultra-tender porc belly, with lovely spicing and depth of flavour. You could use it as a roast or for a multitude of other things. Please don’t be put off by the prep and cooking time – the actual hands-on time is much smaller and the result is phenomenal.

“With Spain being the king of all things pork, doing everything with pork is part of family and community culture, history and society. It’s extremely important. At Bar 44 we love adapting traditional old Spanish recipes using pork, and updating them in our own way, without losing the essence of what they are meant to be. We often combine local and seasonal Welsh produce with classic Spanish methods and accompaniments.

“In this recipe we make a stunning sauce with nutty, dry, toasted Amontillado sherry – the perfect glass of wine to accompany pork dishes. We also serve it with an apple and grape ajo blanco, an ancient Andalucian almond and garlic cold soup, used as a sauce/dip. The nutty flavour works a dream with melting but crisp pork belly.”

Ingredients

  • 2.5kg porc belly, trimmed and skin on
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 medium white onions
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 1 large leek
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 150ml Amontillado sherry
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 500ml chicken stock

For the cure mixture:

  • 1 dessert spoon of coriander seeds, crushed
  • 10 white peppercorns, crushed
  • 6 cloves, crushed
  • 3 star anise
  • 6 juniper berries
  • 100g salt
  • 150g sugar
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch of fresh coriander

For the ajo blanco dip:

  • 500g almonds
  • 200g bread, without crusts
  • 1l apple juice
  • 8 cloves of confit garlic
  • 1 cucumber, without skin or seeds
  • 400ml olive oil
  • 4 tbsp fino sherry
  • 20 grapes
  • 4 apples, peeled and sliced
  • seasoning

For the braised fennel:

  • 3 heads of fennel, sliced lengthways into quarters
  • 1 orange, juice and zest
  • 25ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 15ml cider vinegar
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 5 cloves
  • sea salt to season

Method

  1. Make the ajo blanco dip first of all the day before serving – it is easy, don’t worry! Simply soak all the ingredients except the grapes and apples overnight, then blend with the grapes and apples for at least 3 minutes. Fine strain and chill, and season to taste – it’s now ready to serve alongside the main tomorrow.
  2. We also begin making the main dish a day (at least) in advance too, so the belly has lots of time to cure and take on as much aromatic flavour as possible. Start making the cure mixture by placing the coriander seeds, peppercorns, cloves, star anise and juniper berries in a spice grinder or blender and blitz into a powder. Separately, place salt, sugar, fresh garlic and coriander in a food processor and blitz for 3 minutes until you have a lovely smooth green paste. Add the ground spices to this green paste and process for another 2 minutes. Rub this paste all over the belly (muscle side not skin) and place in an airtight container for a minimum of 24 hours to cure in the fridge (you can cut the belly in half to save space if needed).
  3. Once the belly has had plenty of time to cure, rinse it well under cold water for 5 minutes to get all the cure mixture off, and pat dry on both sides. Score the skin every 1cm or so with a very sharp knife or Stanley knife. Rub sea salt and olive oil into the skin, massaging deeply.
  4. Preheat your oven to 220ºC / 200ºC fan / Gas Mark 7.
  5. Roughly chop up the celery, onion, leek, carrot, a bulb of garlic, and any hard herbs at hand such as rosemary and thyme. Place the veggies in a baking tray and put the belly on top, skin side up. Add a generous glass of dry Amontillado sherry to the tray and roast for 25 minutes.
  6. After 25 minutes, turn down your oven to 150ºC / 130ºC fan / Gas Mark 2 and leave to cook for a further 3½ hours or until the porc has become tender. Then turn the oven back up to 240ºC / 220ºC fan / Gas Mark 9 for a final 20 minutes to really crisp up your crackling.
  7. Remove the porc to rest. Lower the temperature of your oven to 210ºC / 190ºC fan / Gas Mark 6 or 7. Toss all the ingredients for the braised fennel together to mix well, then place on a roasting tray and cook for 20 minutes or until caramelised and softened.
  8. While the fennel is cooking, put the roasting tin of veg and juices on the hob and bring to the boil. Add a splash more Amontillado sherry and use a spatula to mash up the veg to get all the flavour out of it. Add the chicken stock and stir, then add the honey.
  9. Leave to bubble away on a low heat for around 20 minutes, until you have the desired consistency of sauce (you are looking for it to coat the back of a spoon, but be thinner than a gravy or jus). Strain through a sieve and season as necessary.
  10. When ready to serve the dish, slice the porc belly, pour over the Amontillado sauce and plate with the fennel and ajo blanco dip. You will find it has been worth the wait!

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