Two evenings a week I am challenged to cook for my family whilst playing taxi driver, ferrying my son up and down to Crandon Park in Key Biscayne to play tennis. I try to come up with dinners that can be prepared and cooked within an hour and then left to be warmed up later or alternatively a slow cooked dinner that can be popped in the oven and left on it's own to cook for a few hours. Frequently dinner for these days is usually a simple pasta dish, but on the more organized days I like to roast meat.
This recipe brings together my love of pork (specifically belly!) and Sean's love of everything that uses fennel seeds. In fairness you do have to be on the ball and start the process the night before drying and salting the pork skin to make sure you get the perfect crackling... but this is time well spent as it eliminates prep time the next day when you need it!
This is delicious served with Cous Cous Cake (which can be made when Ronin is at tennis) and a salad. It goes without saying that a cheeky glass of mid-week red wine washes it all down nicely too :)
fennel seed encrusted pork belly
1.5–2kg piece of belly pork
1 tbsp sea salt
2 tbsp ground fennel seeds
2 tbsp whole fennel seeds
Freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, cut into thick slices
When buying your meat, ask your butcher to score the skin for you. No matter how sharp you knives are, scoring skin is a tough job! It needs to be scored with deep, closely spaced cuts for good crackling. Ask for a criss-cross diamond cut to give an even better result.
Start the day before you intend to roast the pork. Place the meat on a rack above a tray or bowl and pour a full kettle of boiling water slowly over the skin. Pour away the collected water, pat the pork dry and then let it dry completely for an hour or so. Sprinkle the skin with the salt and rub it in all over the belly. Cover with a tea cloth and leave it in the fridge overnight. This will make it dry further. Dryness is good for crackling.
Take the pork out of the fridge an hour before you intend to cook it so it can come up to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F. Pat the skin dry with kitchen roll and rub all over with the fennel seeds and black pepper.
Arrange the onion slices on a baking tray and put the pork on top. Roast until the skin starts to crackle. Check the pork every 15 minutes and move the tray around so that the pork cooks evenly. This part of the cooking is important to start the crackling process. When you feel confident that the skin is blistering, turn the oven down to 140C/275F and cook for a further 2-3 hours until the meat pulls away from the bone very easily.
Serves approximately 8 people.