You know when you do something by the numbers? To the letter. You don’t deviate from the path. You follow the instructions. Step-by-step.
And it still goes wrong. It doesn’t work, or it tastes weird, whatever it might be.
Sometimes I actually quite enjoy it when things go wrong. Take my ‘homemade Crunchie bar’. Total disaster but much more interesting reading than if it had gone to plan. Or my ‘prolapsed pear and chocolate pastry’. Looked like it had erupted; great picture!
But for my latest attempt at recreating something I saw being made on TV, it wasn’t that it didn’t look right, it just didn’t taste that great. It was like my school reports – ‘Could have done better’.
Slow Roast Pork Belly with Lentils and Bacon ticks most of the boxes for me – I mean there’s pork belly and bacon in there, so what’s not to like?
And what piqued my interest was that you have to brine the pork. According to the instructions this means that the rind crisps up all on its own, with no scoring or grilling. And I watched Tom Kerridge do all this on TV so it works.
Except it didn’t, but more on that later. Someone reading this might see where it went wrong…
For Slow Roast Pork Belly with Lentils and Bacon you will need:
For the pork
- 2lb pork belly, rind on
- 5½oz demerara sugar
- 7oz sea salt
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 2 cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- sprig fresh thyme
For the lentils
- 2½oz bacon, diced
- 1 onion
- 1 tbsp herbs de provence
- 7oz lentils (I used brown)
- Glass white wine
- 14fl oz chicken stock
For the salsa
- Handful fresh mint leaves
- Handful fresh parsley
- 6 cavolo nero leaves
- 2 garlic cloves
- 10g salted anchovies
- 1 tbsp capers
- 1 shallot
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 lemon zest
- Drizzle olive oil
First you need to brine the pork. This takes 24 hours, so if you are reading this with all the ingredients to hand intending to serve it up in a couple of hours to friends or family, you’re already screwed – sorry about that!
Boil up 1 ¾ pints of water in a pan and add the brine ingredients. Once the sugar and salt has dissolved remove from the heat and pour into a (non-metallic) dish or container. Allow to cool.
Add the pork and cover with a lid or container and put in the fridge for a whole day.
When you’re ready to cook, remove the pork from the brine and pat dry with paper towels, put the oven on at 150 C or 300 F
Place the pork belly onto a rack over a baking tray. Put in the oven for 2½-3 hours.
No difference from before it was brined
Now make the lentils. Tricky little buggers lentils. Some lentils need soaking for days. Others cook more or less like rice.
Lentil ingredients – except the beer; that’s just there because I like beer. And wine. And the odd JD & coke. But never to excess. Never-ever.
But anyway first you need to chop up the bacon and fry until it releases all that bacon fatty goodness. Then spoon out the bacon and set aside, add the onion to the delicious loveliness that is the bacon fat and fry gently until soft.
Add the bacon, herbs and lentils (I pre-boiled mine for 10 mins which was a mistake as they got a bit too soft). Add the white wine and bring to the boil. Add the stock and simmer for half an hour until the liquid is absorbed.
Finally make the salsa.
Blanch the herb and cabbage leaves in boiling water for a minute and then put into a bowl of water with ice (the idea is to keep the colour of the greenery green).
Then chop the leafery and grate in the garlic and add the chopped capers. At this point you could also add the anchovies but they are one thing I hate.
Eating anchovies is like eating a mouthful of oily hair – all those revolting little wispy bones are my idea of food hell!
Add a chopped shallot, salt, cayenne pepper and lemon zest. Mix in the olive oil.
Back to the pork.
As you can see my pork did not have a crispy top. In fact it was still like uncooked bacon rind. It was just hot. Why? No idea. I cooked it for 4 hours too, which meant the meat was just starting to toughen up at the bottom.
Meat mystery. Anyway I scored and cut the rind off in one piece, shoved it under the grill, let it crackle up and then stuck it back on the meat.
To serve – slice off some pork and pop it on top of some lentils with a piece of crackling on top (to be honest I’m not bothered about crackling either – it’s just crunchy and greasy). Serve with the cabbage salsa on the side. Out of 10 I’d give it 1 (as the actress said to the bishop) no seriously I’d give it 6.5 – and I made a curry with the rest of the pork and that was epic!