Butternut Soup, Braised Pork Belly and Toasted Buckwheat

You will need to begin this recipe two days ahead.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted, roughly ground
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt flakes
  • 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) pork belly, deboned, trimmed, sinew removed
  • 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) apple cider
  • 2 litres (70 fl oz/8 cups) chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 butternut pumpkins (squash), peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic bulb, peeled, smashed
  • 3 rosemary stalks
  • 3 thyme stalks
  • 30 ml (1 fl oz) grapeseed oil
  • 200 g (7 oz/1 cup) buckwheat
  • 200 g (7 oz) butter
  • 75 g ( oz/½ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 turnip, peeled, thinly sliced, to serve
  • watercress, to serve

Maple Syrup Dressing

  • 50 ml ( fl oz) maple syrup
  • 150 ml (5 fl oz) olive oil
  • white balsamic vinegar

Method

Combine the maple syrup, cumin and sea salt in a small bowl. Rub into the pork, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 90°C (195°F/Gas ½). Lightly wash the pork and pat dry with paper towel. Roll and tie with a strong butcher’s string and sear in a large frying pan over medium heat, caramelising all sides. Transfer to a large braising pan and deglaze the frying pan with the apple cider. Pour the pan juices and chicken stock into the braising pan, cover with foil and cook in the oven for 18 hours.

Once cooked, cool at room temperature in the stock. When the pork is cool enough to handle, remove it from the stock, wrap it in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready for serving. Strain the braising liquid and reserve it for the soup, covered, in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Heat a deep baking tray in the oven with the olive oil until the oil is almost smoking. Add the prepared butternut, smashed garlic, rosemary and thyme and roast until caramelised, tender and dark golden (1–1½ hours). Put the cooked butternut in a blender with 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) of the pork braising liquid and blend until smooth. Strain and season generously with salt and pepper.

Wash the buckwheat under cold running water until the water runs clear. Transfer to a saucepan of boiling water and cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Strain and rinse under cold running water until cool. Drain and pat dry between tea towels (dish towels).

Gently heat some of the grapeseed oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add enough buckwheat to cover the base of the pan. (Don’t overcrowd the pan as the buckwheat won’t caramelise properly and will stick together.) When the buckwheat starts to colour add the butter and a little salt and pepper. Keep the pan moving or stir constantly to prevent the buckwheat from burning. It will cook quickly and have an aroma reminiscent of popcorn. Remove and season with salt while still hot.

Make the maple syrup dressing by putting all the ingredients in a bowl and whisking vigorously until emulsified.

To serve, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Cut the pork belly into medallions and roll in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. Caramelise all sides in a non-stick ovenproof frying pan over medium–high heat then place pan in the oven to warm through.

Bring the butternut soup to serving temperature and pour into soup bowls. Place a medallion of pork belly in the centre then add the sliced turnip around it. Sprinkle with a generous amount of toasted buckwheat, then a small swirl of maple syrup dressing. Finish with a couple of sprigs of watercress.