Beautiful sun-tanned beer-braised pork belly with caramelised apples

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Beautiful sun-tanned beer-braised pork belly with caramelised apples and onions…

Pork Belly is one of my favourite things in the whole wide world.

I think over the years it’s become my speciality and I really love this recipe so had to share it with you.  I just couldn’t be the only one having fun in the kitchen!

There are many myths and long-winded procedures to try and get that perfect crackling but rest assured it’s easier than you think!

I must be one of the laziest chef’s in the world.  If i can put something in the oven and then leave it there for an hour and a bit and get a round of applause or a wow it comes out, then I’ll do it!  And that’s exactly how this belly is prepared.  It basically takes all the hard work out of being amazing in the kitchen and you will be able to smile and feel free again!

Yes, it’s decadent.  No, you shouldn’t wear your skinny jeans the next day.

But life is short and decadent food, in moderation, with a balanced diet the rest of the time is okay.  I call this one my 80/20 cheat treat and look here I’ve served it with beautiful greens and a healthy pea puree so it’s practically a balanced meal!

Also, belly is economical and you can cater for heaps of people without any stress.  Allow 250g of belly per person!

Here are my secrets to the perfect crackling EVERY time:

WARNING: Every belly you take home(lol) is going to behave differently.  Different fat contents in the belly (lean or fatty), different levels of dryness/moisture in the skin (cryovac sealed or dried overnight skin), your oven/equipment and of course your cooking method all have a part to play but DON’T PANIC I’m about to reveal ALL!

  1. Braising is the best cooking method for pork belly with perfect crackling – the meat is submerged in a tasty cooking liquid and the skin/rind is high and dry and exposed to extreme heat. The flavour AND colour of the cooking liquid will infuse into the meat and keep it perfectly tender and safe from drying out.
  2. Scoring the skin gives it more surface area so more heat can pop out the crackling – get your butcher to score the skin/rind to help that heat get right in there and help pop out that crackling.  Most supermarket bellies are already scored.  Of course you can do it yourself but don’t bother if your knife is blunt you WILL end up in tears! 
  3. Cook the belly in a ‘swear-word’ hot oven – yes, swear word hot so that you know how hot i want this oven. It’s the ONLY way.  You are not going to get a speeding fine if you go over 180c which is the safe zone!  Crank the oven up to it’s maximum temperature of 220/250c!
  4. Minimum cook time of 1h15min – Pork belly with crackling is not a midweek meal that you decide to cook when you’ve been stuck in traffic for an hour, the kids are screaming with hunger, and food needs to be on the table in 10 minutes flat.  I have recipes for that night but this is not it!  Belly needs some alone time in the oven for at least an hour and 15 minutes.  This is fabulous if you are having a dinner party which means you can clean the kitchen, set the table, get yourself all cleaned up and glamorous while the OVEN DOES THE WORK! You might need to top up the cooking liquid once or twice but that’s about it.
  5. Give that belly a suntan under the grill-in most cases, after an hour in the oven the belly might not have popped it’s crackling.  Do not start crying, drinking excessively or panicking there are ways and means to get your way!  Place the belly on the bottom shelf.  Put the grill on.  Stay close. Close the door.  The extreme heat or ‘suntan’ from the direct heat of the grill will blast that fat out and give you the perfect crackling but BEWARE…if you get distracted or if something happens on Facebook and you forget about the belly it will burn!  Stay close and monitor the crackling, you will be surprised what that long-distance relationship with the grill can do to your belly! Once it’s all popped out remove from the oven and get ready to get that round of applause!

And now the recipe!

Beautiful sun-tanned beer-braised pork belly with caramelised apples and onions…

  • 180g Pork belly per person
  • 2-4 cups weak chicken or vegetable stock (amount required depends on the size of your roasting dish)
  • 1 can beer or cider
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric (this is the secret to the belly sun tan!)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin/curry/ras el hanout powder
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 onions, thickly sliced
  • 2 pears or apples, thickly sliced
  • Salt to sprinkle the rind

To prepare the belly, first ensure that you have dried the skin as much as possible using paper towel or a tea towel. Score the skin of the belly and cut the belly into serving sized portions.

Place pear and onion in a roasting dish and put the pork on top – the intention is to make sure that the pork skin will stay dry while it is being cooked. Essentially we are using the onions and the apples/pears as CULINARY HIGH HEELS!

Mix the stock and spices together in a jug and CAREFULLY pour into the roasting dish – making sure not to wet the skin of the pork. You want the liquid to come about halfway up the side of the pork.

Pat the pork skin dry again and then dust liberally with salt and immediately place into a swear word hot oven (220 – 250°C).

Cook for at least 1 ¼ hrs, checking regularly to make sure the liquid doesn’t dry out. If the skin is not crackling, turn the grill on for 5 minutes at a time, place the belly on the bottom shelf, and then put it back to oven, watching closely until that lovely skin pops out into perfect crackling…heaven!


Turn the pork upside down to carve if needed – this makes cutting the crackling easier.

Serve the cooking liquid, pears and onions as part of the dish. Make sure you taste it first and adjust the seasoning if necessary.  If the liquid has cooked down too much simple add more water and heat through.  No need to thicken you can serve this as a broth or you can thicken to make a gravy, just take some of the fat off first!  Paper towel on the surface is the easiest!


I’m wild about cooking!

Chef Mel

The Vanilla Zulu

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