Cooking today is Meg from Elsie Marley. Meg is famous for running Kids Clothes Week, where people all around the world focus on sewing some kids clothing for the week. I’ve taken part twice before (see here) and I love it! The next KCW is coming up at the end of the month, go here if you’d like to join in.
Meg not only sews, but she cooks too! Her latest recipe for smoky roasted eggplant had me drooling all over the keyboard…I think it’s the runny egg and the fact that us pregnant women aren’t meant to eat them…torture! Today, Meg is testing out a recipe for Pork Belly from The River Cottage Meat Book.
Hello, Things For Boys readers! I was super excited that Abby asked me to be a part of Cooking the Books. I said yes right away, but then I realized all the cookbooks I own are very well used. We have a small kitchen and I had to ruthlessly edit my cookbook collection to make it fit in the space available. Cookbooks, though, are my favorite kinds of books–I read them like novels!
I never stopped reading them, I just had to stop buying them! That is where our library comes in handy. Any cookbook that catches my eye goes on my hold list. Most weeks I have a stack like the one pictured above waiting for me. Eventually, I have to give them back, which means many meals I want to make go uncooked. This series was the perfect opportunity to dive head first into one of those books.
I picked the book on the top of the stack: The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The book is half reference and half recipes. All of the recipes looked delicious, but the one that stood out was Roast Belly of Pork with Apple Sauce. Your first thought might be, “Well, I’m never going to make that.” And a few month ago, that probably would have been my reaction too. Part of my new years resolution was to eat a more varied diet. Life is too short to only eat chicken, beef, or pork! There is a whole world of meat out there and oceans full of fish too (I won’t even touch on the crazy amounts of fruit and veg to try). I was also interested in eating more sustainable meats: grass fed, pasture raised, organic. The problem with this kind of meat is that, though delicious, it is quite expensive. Luckily, if you are willing to be a little adventurous, sustainable meats can be super affordable.
I bought this pork belly at our local farmer’s market for $4/lb. That is a long way from $20/lb organic lamb chops. The farm I bought it from (Jordandal Farms, if you are in Wisconsin) raises all their animals on pasture and though they are not certified organic, they practice sustainable, organic principles. Now pork belly is, I admit, not the easiest cut to obtain. It’s what bacon is made from, so usually it’s made into bacon. If you track down a local farmer, they are sure to help you out. And your work will be rewarded, because HooWee! is it delicious.
Once you have the pork belly, you just need a little salt, pepper and thyme and soon you’ll wonder how you ever lived without this amazing meal.
Roast Pork Belly
from The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (with my notes in italics)
- The thick end of the belly (last 6 ribs)—I have no idea what this means. I asked for pork belly and he asked if I wanted a 3lb piece or a 12lb piece. I picked the 3 pounder.
- salt and fresh ground pepper–yes! lots of salt
- fresh thyme leaves–I used about 10 small sprigs.
- Score the skin of the belly with a sharp knife and rub with salt, pepper and fresh thyme leaves, getting the seasoning and herbs right into the cracks.
- Roast in a hot oven, 220°C (425°F) for 30 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180°C (350°F) and cook for roughly another hour, until the juices run clear when golden brown.
- If the crackling is reluctant, whack up the heat again, as high as you like, and check every few minutes till it’s done.
I roasted my pork belly a bit longer, because I was nervous. But I probably shouldn’t have. He doesn’t say to let the meat rest, but I think you should–15 minutes is good. To crisp the crackling I had to turn my oven way up. I tried the broiler (griller), but it burns too easily. The oven, cranked up to 250°C (500°F), works really well. You may not skip this part! The crackling is the most unbelievably delicious thing. Out of this world, I tell you!
The pork belly shrinks up quite a bit, which surprised me. Makes it look like a Sunday roast. Actually, roast pork belly would be a perfect Sunday meal. It takes a few hours in the oven, but all of them are unattended. Weekends or when you have some puttering around the house time is the right time to make this meal.
The recipe also has directions for making apple sauce, but since I was already making mashed butternut squash (aka smashed squash!) I simply sautéed some sliced apples in butter. He suggests serving some kale to “ease your conscience as you lap up the lard.” I followed his advice and made a variation of my kale salad. The meal was a huge success! Thank you, Abby, for making it happen!
Have you made a recipe from this book? Leave a comment and let us know what you thought!