I was watching an old Nigella TV programme a little while ago and one of her unfussy weekend recipes involved slow-roasting a huge joint of pork. And Nigella said to add some vinegar to help make the crackling get super crisp.
I’d never heard of that before (adding vinegar I mean) and so was prompted to experiment myself asap. Only I would be cooking for just my husband and myself hence the pork volume in question would have to be appropriately curtailed.
A few days later, I went into the butchers to buys some sausages for dinner and espied a cut of pork belly that was simply preening itself, in my eyes, and crying out to be used experimentally. And so of course I bought that too. I never mind over-shopping – there are always leftovers to be gleaned from such surfeit. I asked the butcher to score the fat for me into lozange shapes; easy peasy enough to do at home but I was feeling lazy that day and besides, butchers have much sharper knives than I ever will.
One ingredient that Nigella did not use, which is Italian, and which is incredibly useful in the roasting department is a salt and herb concoction called Ariosto, found in every supermarket all over Italy.
The ingredients are natural enough: sea salt, garlic, rosemary, sage, juniper, basil, marjoram, oregano, bayleaf, coriander, and parsely. All good stuff and no ‘naughties’ !
I poured some olive oil into a bowl and added generous pinches of the Ariosto, 1 tablespoon of vinegar and a twist of pepper.
I turned the pork belly fat-side down and dusted the other side with some plain sea salt.
Then I poured the mixture over the pork belly’s padding of fat, and tried to rub as much of it as I could into the cracks. I then scattered the sausages randomly around the pork belly (they don’t need any primping, taste great on their own) and slid the baking tray into a very hot oven (250°C) for less than 10 minutes. And then I turned the heat down to 190°C.
I also added a tray of mixed vegetables to roast alongside. Roast vegetables are lovely, we all know that.
When the sausages looked cooked (i.e. had gone a nice brown colour), I removed them from the oven and scattered some bayleaves around them, torn in half, because a little bit of green does wonders for a sausage.
And when I could see that the pork belly’s fat had gone beautifully crisp and golden .. well, then … time to eat!
Doesn’t it look lovely?
Oh so very yummy .. I kept breaking off little bits of crackling … I couldn’t help myself.
So we had sausages and veggies …
Plenty of crackling !
And of course there were plenty of leftovers for the next day. (By the way, I arranged the tomatoes like that to hide the fact that I had eaten the crackling.)
One thing, however, the crackling was only crispy when it was hot. The next day it was rubbery. Remember that if you think you might be prompted to try this dish!
In my defence, I cooked this dish when the temperature was cruelly low outside … and when it is very cold indeed, we do need more calories and fat to keep us going. Not sure I would relish this dish, for example, in the middle of summer.