Wild Garlic and Pistachio Pesto Stuffed Roast Pork Belly with Cider

wild garlic stuffed pork belly

Yes more ace wild garlic praise in the form of this wonderfully easy roast pork belly recipe. Pork belly is probably my favourite cut of meat when it comes to cooking for a crowd as it’s layers of tasty fat keep it moist during cooking and the skin crisps up to crackled piggy perfection.

Last year I made this for my friend Jess whom I hadn’t seen in 20 years, I basically rocked up with a crate of cooking gear at her gorgeous farmhouse in Dorset and we got hammered on wine, reminisced about our time at school in Colwyn Bay and cooked together, it was heaven. Jess has a big Aga which is perfect for cooking this in, just whack it in the hot oven for 30 minutes or until the skin crisps up then add the cider, cover and move to the gentler oven and leave for about 5 or 6 hours whilst you drink lots of wine. You can pretty much forget about it as it pootles along doing its own thing. I think I cooked for about 12 that night, none apart from Jess I had met before and we had the most fabulous boozy feast that lasted until dawn when Jess accidentally picked up a tube of Veet hair remover cream instead of toothpaste and brushed her teeth, OUCH (you can read more about Jess’s escapades in Dorset in her column for Dorset Life or on her the uncensored versions on her hilarious blog The Dorset Chronicles- Diary of a Farmer’s Wife).  The pork however was triumphant, it was an Oxford Sandy & Black pig reared by Jess and her husband Jasper, my god it was without a doubt the best pork I’ve ever eaten, I’ll never forget it.

Tilly, fox, bandit and frog hanging out by the Aga

Everyone gets to hang out by the Aga at Jess’s house, dogs, ponies and foxes…

You could use my recipe for wild garlic, hazelnut and smoky chipotle pesto for this, it would be all kinds of wonderful….

Ingredients: (serves 8)

  • 2kg pork belly (if you buy on the bone then remove the bone and use it as a trivet during cooking)
  • Sea salt flakes
  • bottle of good cider

For the Wild Garlic Pistachio Pesto:

  • 100g fresh wild garlic leaves, washed
  • 70g shelled pistachio nuts
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons good olive or rapeseed oil
  • zest of 1 unwaxed lemon, grated finely on a microplane
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 100g freshly grated grana padano
  • few grinds of black pepper
  • pinch of sea salt flakes

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to its highest temperature (around 230C). Using a sharp blade score the skin making sure you don’t go right through to the meat as it will cause the meat will dry out during the cooking process.  Pour a kettle of boiling water over the skin of your pork belly then dab dry with kitchen roll, rub in a good pinch of sea salt flakes and leave whilst you make your pesto.
  2. For the pesto simply pop everything into your food processor and blend until the pesto has a coarse but well mixed consistency.
  3. Lay your pork belly skin side down then spread your pesto over the meat. Roll and tie tightly using butchers string every 2 inches.
  4. Lay your joint in a roasting tin (on the bone trivet if you have it) and roast for 20-30 minutes to get the crackling nice and crispy then turn your oven down to 150C, pour the cider around the joint, cover with foil and continue to gently cook for a further 3 hours. If your crackling needs crisping up a bit just whack the oven back up to full for the last 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the joint from the oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Bubble the pan juices on the hob to reduce and concentrate, season if need be then pour into a jug be served with dinner.

Fragrant Roast Pork with Herb Couscous, Rose Infused Sheep’s Curd and Rhubarb and Apple Sauce

I was all set for a roast pork dinner: the oven was pre heating, the pork shoulder joint was coming to room temperature, the wine was open and The West Wing was playing on my laptop in the kitchen. Yes I was all ready to get cracking except for one small thing – I’d forgotten to buy potatoes from Bridget at this morning’s car boot, bugger. Be they mashed or roasted, the humble spud is an integral part of our Sunday Roast.

Veg wise I had just 1 carrot, some celery tops with leaves and a couple of onions, I also had a packet of couscous in the larder, that’s a good start I figured and after a bit of garden foraging this dish was born. This method of roasting pork ensures really crispy crackling and meat that oozes juice and is so tender it can be cut with a spoon, well except for the crackling which is perfectly crispy.

Ingredients:

For the pork:

  • pork shoulder joint
  • Halen Môn spiced salt
  • fennel seeds
  • sumac
  • cumin seeds
  • 1 packet Spicentice Moroccan Lamb Tagine mix (found at back of cupboard, went out of date 3 months ago!)
  • 1 large white onion finely sliced
  • 3 handfuls chopped rhubarb from the garden
  • 1 apple
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 600ml cloudy apple juice
  • 5 apricots (once dried but have been steeping in brandy in my cupboard for 8 months or so)
  • 1 tablespoon wildflower honey

For the couscous:

  • 1 packet couscous
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 red onion finely chopped
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • tops and leaves of one head celery
  • chopped garden herbs: lots of various mints, fennel, parsley, chives (plus a few flowers from everything to garnish)
  • skin from 1 preserved lemon, washed and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp Essential Cuisine chicken stock powder
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds
  • handful dried sliced garlic

For the rose infused sheep’s curd:

Just before it goes in the oven, after 30 minutes and after the full 90 minutes

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to hottest setting. Make sure pork is at room temp, rub the spiced salt and fennel seeds into the scored and scorched skin then sprinkle with sumac.
  2. Put your sliced onion, rhubarb, apple, cumin seeds, tagine mix and cinnamon into a roasting tray, pour over the apple juice, mix then put your pork on top. Roast at the highest setting until the crackling is lovely and crispy then cover with foil and cook for about an hour or until the centre of the pork is cooked. Remove meat and leave it to rest covered in foil.
  3. Finely chop all your couscous ingredients. Put your stock powder, dried garlic slivers and couscous in a big bowl, stir then add boiling water (as much as the packet says – I usually aim for the water to be 1 inch higher than the couscous). Stir, cover with foil and leave to sit for 10 minutes. Then remove foil, fluff with fork then stir in all the remaining veg and herbs.
  4. Mix your rose water into the sheeps curd.
  5. That’s it really, to assemble just put your herb couscous on a plate, place a slice of juicy pork on top, a bit of crackling, a couple of spoonfuls of the wonderful gravy, dot with the rose infused sheep’s curd and scatter a few of your herb flowers over.