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My best-selling dish: Slow-roasted pork belly with mashed potato and Bramley apple sauce

01 March 2013
My best-selling dish: Slow-roasted pork belly with mashed potato and Bramley apple sauce

Marcus Verberne
Head chef, Roast, London

WHAT IS IT? Main course

PRICE £22.50

GP 81%

PERCENTAGE OF ORDERS 11%

This is by far our most popular dish at Roast. Including what we sell downstairs on the market at Roast to Go, we cook approximately 150 bellies per week, and due to the long cooking time, our ovens are constantly full.

The inspiration for this dish comes from my love of quintessentially British cuisine and good honest cooking. There are few dishes that can beat a cold winter's day and over time this has come to be one of the staples at Roast. It's a traditional, hearty recipe that showcases the best of British produce, in this case our suppliers Wick's Manor House in Essex, whose products are second to none.

Ingredients (Serves eight)
4kg boneless pork belly
15 sage leaves (roughly chopped)
3 cloves garlic (roughly chopped)
1 carrot (peeled & roughly chopped)
1 stick of celery (roughly chopped)
½ a leek (roughly chopped)
1 onion (peeled & roughly chopped)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For the gravy 1 carrot (peeled & roughly chopped)
1 sticks of celery (roughly chopped)
½ a leek (roughly chopped)
1 onion (peeled & roughly chopped)
2tbs of flour
200ml dry cider
400ml hot chicken stock
400ml hot beef stock
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Method Pre-heat your oven to 220°C. Score the skin across the pork belly to a depth of about ½cm at 2cm intervals. The idea is to score through the skin but not all the way through the layer of fat under it. Turn the belly over and season its underside with salt and pepper, then scatter the chopped sage and garlic covering the underside evenly.

Roll the belly lengthways with the scored skin to the outside and tie it together with butchery string. You'll need to make about 6-8 ties to hold it together properly.
Place the pork belly on a wire rack over the kitchen sink. Pour a large kettle of boiling water over the skin, which will tighten it up and enhance the quality of the crackling.

Pat the rolled belly dry and rub it with vegetable oil and a generous amount of sea salt. Place it on a wire rack inside a roasting tray and place the tray in the oven.

The reason for the wire rack is to lift it off the bottom of the roasting tray so the hot air circulates all the way around the belly for even crackling. After approximately 45 minutes, the skin of the pork should be golden brown and crackled. Turn the oven down to 160°C and cook for one hour.

Remove the roasting tray from the oven and lift out the rack with the pork on it. Scatter the chopped carrot, celery, leeks and onion into the roasting tray and mix them with the fat that has rendered out of the pork during cooking. Place the pork on its rack, back into the roasting tray over the vegetables. Continue to roast for another hour before removing the pork from the oven to rest for at least 10-15 minutes before carving.

For the gravy Remove the roasted pork joint from the roasting dish to rest. Transfer all the roasted vegetables to a saucepan. Drain off all the fat left in the roasting dish and pour in the cider to deglaze, loosening all the flavoursome caramelised morsels.

Place the saucepan containing the vegetables onto a moderate heat and add the flour. Cook the flour gently, stirring regularly for 2 minutes. Add the cider and deglazed roasting juices from the roasting dish and cook for a further 2 minutes or so to evaporate any remaining alcohol. Stir well so the cider incorporates with the flour and thickens. Add the bay leaf and thyme and gradually pour in the hot chicken and beef stocks, stirring to avoid any lumps forming.

Bring the gravy to the boil giving it a thorough skim with a ladle, to remove any fat that collects on the surface as it comes up. Turn the heat down to a simmer and reduce the sauce (skimming regularly) until you have reached a desirable gravy consistency. Taste the gravy to check for seasoning and season accordingly and strain through a fine meshed sieve.

To serve, carve the pork with a large serrated knife so you're able to saw through the crackling. Serve with mashed potatoes and Bramley apple sauce.

RECOMMENDED WINE It makes sense to kick off by suggesting an English wine from Roast's own list at this very British restaurant, and their Bacchus Reserve 2010, created for them by Chapel Down in Kent, offers a slightly off-dry finish to keep pace with the fruit sweetness in the apple sauce accompaniment, while having enough perky acidity to refresh between mouthfuls of belly and crackling.
A fine German Riesling will always cope well with pork, so vom Kieselstein 2011 from Weingut von Racknitz has succulence allied with a slate soil driven minerality, or a quality Chenin Blanc, such as La Negrétte 2010 from Domaine Le Rocher 
des Violettes has the combination of lusciousness and clarity to 
pull it off.
Zeren Wilson is a food writer 
and wine consultant who 
runs restaurant review site 
www.bittenandwritten.com

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