Slow-cooked meat is a thing of beauty, and you can often transform a simple, inexpensive cut of meat into something really special. Pork belly has a high fat content, which helps to keep it delicious and moist throughout cooking, while the crackling is nothing short of spectacular when done well. Middle Eastern spices work wonders with pork belly and the addition of flavour to both the crackling and the meat really give this dish something extra. Leftovers – if there are any – make superb sandwiches.
1.5kg pork belly
4–5 tablespoons garlic oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
5 green cardamom pods, cracked
3 black cardamom pods
1 finger-sized piece of cinnamon bark (not cinnamon sticks)
175ml cloudy apple juice
juice of 2 oranges
3 heaped teaspoons sea salt flakes, crushed
Preheat the oven to 150°C, Gas Mark 2. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Score the fat on the top of the pork belly in strips about 1cm apart. Rub the garlic oil all over the pork belly. In a small bowl, combine the ground coriander, garlic powder, ginger, paprika, cumin and turmeric and work the spice rub all over the meat. Place the joint on to the prepared baking tray. Add the green and black cardamom pods and the cinnamon bark into the baking tray along with the apple and orange juices and half the crushed sea salt flakes, then pour in the 175ml of water up to where the fat begins (some pork bellies are taller than others so you may not need all the liquid). Sprinkle the remaining salt on top of the pork and rub it in. Roast, without basting, for 5½ hours (don’t be tempted to baste it, as you won’t get crispy crackling if you do). Top up with water if necessary.
Increase the oven temperature to 240°C, Gas Mark 9, and roast for a further 30 minutes or until the pork belly is deep brown and crispy. Remove from the oven, cover loosely with kitchen foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Recipe extracted from Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour. Available here.