slow roasted pork belly with sprouting broccoli and pureed garlic

we’ve been eating a lot of vegetarian food recently and as a result, last weekend i had a craving for something meaty. pork belly was the obvious answer, not least because it was one of the few pieces of “big meat” in the freezer.

i fancied trying a new recipe and, having flicked through my cookery books, decided to follow a skye gyngell recipe from her second book, my favourite ingredients.

her pork is flavoured with fennel (always a good starting point for me) and served with a garlic puree. i nearly didn’t bother with the garlic puree but am really glad i did – it worked wonderfully with both the pork and the gem squash that i served on the side.

the spicy broccoli that skye suggests as an accompaniment was also good, made better for me by the addition of our final home grown courgette of the season (and what a meagre season it has been), which i  sautéed in some butter, with the chilli, until it was just soft and then added the just-cooked broccoli.

my piece of pork was much smaller than skye’s recipe called for but apart from reducing the initial cooking period to 30 minutes i followed her timings. the meat was beautifully tender, most of the fat had rendered away and, thanks to the bed of vegetables on which it sat, didn’t have that slightly overdone bottom layer which it sometimes does.

a perfect meal for what was probably one of the last perfectly warm days of the year.

skye gyngell’s slow roasted pork belly with sprouting broccoli and pureed garlic

2kg pork belly, with skin on and ribs intact

50ml olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon of fennel seeds

4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

4 celery sticks, cut into chunks

2 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped

3 bay leaves

few rosemary sprigs

2 dried red chillies

500ml white wine (i used apple juice)

for the garlic purée

20 very fresh whole, peeled garlic cloves

200ml whole milk

3 lemon thyme (or ordinary thyme) sprigs

50ml mild-tasting extra virgin olive oil

few drops of lemon juice

for the broccoli

750g sprouting broccoli, trimmed

40ml extra virgin olive oil

1 red chilli, sliced (optional)

preheat the oven to 200°c/gas 6. using a very sharp knife, score the skin of the pork at regular intervals with 5mm-deep cuts. rub the olive oil into the flesh and season with 1 tbsp sea salt and the fennel seeds. place the pork, skin side up, in a roasting tray and roast in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes until crackling begins to form.

carefully lift out the pork on to a platter and scatter the vegetables, herbs and dried chillies in the roasting tray. pour over the wine, season lightly and stir to combine. rest the pork on top of the vegetables and cover with foil. lower the oven setting to 160°c/gas 3. return the pork to the oven and cook for a further 2 hours. remove the foil and cook, uncovered, for a further 20 minutes.

while the pork is roasting, make the garlic purée. put the garlic, milk and thyme sprigs in a small saucepan over a gentle heat. add a pinch of salt and bring to just under a simmer, then turn down the heat to very low and poach the garlic very gently until soft, about 35 minutes. the garlic should be very soft and almost falling apart. using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic cloves to a bowl and add a tablespoonful or so of the milk. using a fork mash to a purée, then stir in the olive oil. add a few drops of lemon juice and season with a little more salt and pepper to taste; keep warm.

when the pork is ready, set aside to rest while you cook the broccoli. add to a pan of boiling salted water and cook for about three minutes. drain and immediately dress with the olive oil and chilli slices, if using.

cut the pork into 2-3cm thick slices, sliding out the bones as you do so and discarding the vegetables. arrange on warm plates with the broccoli. spoon over the garlic purée and serve.