Roast pork belly à la Anna Hansen

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The most constantly inspirational chef I have ever worked with is one of my business partners and joint head chef at The Providores in London, former Auckland chef Anna Hansen. Her idea of brining pork belly may seem very simple, but it makes a roasted pork belly a thing of beauty — and it tastes so much better as the texture changes as well. The flavours you add to the brine are up to you. You want the skin scored with a very sharp knife, so either use a Stanley knife or ask the butcher to do it. The closer the lines, the crisper the crackling. This will make a fantastic meal served with Christmas Mince Roast Kumara, a simple rocket or watercress salad and homemade apple sauce.

Ingredients

  • 2-2.5 kg (4-5 lb) pork belly, bones removed, skin scored as above
  • 1 cup fine table salt
  • 2 tablespoons allspice, coarsely ground
  • 6 star anise, coarsely ground
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1 tablespoon chilli flakes (optional)
  • 2 thumbs fresh ginger, finely sliced (don’t bother peeling them)

Method

You need to store the belly at least 24 hours in the brine – ideally in a fridge, although a cold room away from sun will do. You may have to chop it into two to three pieces to fit your container. Place everything except pork in a large tub and add 2 litres (4 pints) cold water. Mix to dissolve salt, then add pork and enough cold water to cover (you may need to weigh the pork down to keep it submerged). Leave 24-36 hours.

When it’s ready to cook, remove pork from brine and sit on a rack in a roasting tray lined with baking paper or foil (it’ll be easier to clean). Roast on the middle shelf at 160°C/320°F/Gas Mark 3 for 3 ½ hours, by which time the skin should be crackling. Turn the oven up to 200°C/400°F/ Gas Mark 5 and cook until the crackling is crisp. Leave to rest for 20 minutes, covered with some foil to keep it warm.