sharing recipes from one generation to the next
In culinary terms, roasting is the application of indirect dry heat to food. Man has been cooking meat this way since he first learned to make fire.
Archeologists have found evidence in the Ukraine of a sophisticated roasting spit dating back to 30,000 BC while in modern day Syria they unearthed rudimentary clay lined pit ovens of a similar age. They were heated by the radiant heat from hot pebbles . The modern day Indian tandoor is based on this ancient but functional design.*
Hunting game forced man to develop tools, weapons and implements to finesse his cunning and develop tactics to outwit and overcome his prey. The hunter ate meat to fill his belly and to nourish his offspring, he wore the animal skins for warmth and soon discovered that bone tools were more efficient than those he made from stone.
The animals prehistoric man hunted varied through the millenia differed with the seasons, climatic conditions, and location. He domesticated animals, he developed new methods of cooking meat, but the basic roasting technique essentially stayed the same.
In his important book “On Food and Cooking” first published in 1984, Harold McGee tells us that browned meat tastes better not because the juices are sealed in, but thanks to the enhancment of natural flavour produced through the caramelization of co existing surface sugars and amino acids. The reaction happens only after the temperature exceeds 154 degrees celsius. This helps explain why we relish the flavour of roasted meat so much and why plain boiled cuts lack intensity.
In modern times the family roast has found a place on the traditional celebration table, turkey at Christmas and Thanksgiving, lamb at Easter, beef on Sunday. My mother’s advice when selecting a suitable partner was to find a man who could carve the roast, an opinion reflecting the reverence in which the roast dinner was regarded mid 20th century.
I have a predilection for roasted meat, especially chicken, pork and lamb. Because of this I’ve buried campfire ovens in hots coals, perfected roast lamb in my charcoal fired kettle barbeque and committed temperatures and times to memory so that crispy skinned chicken from my domestic oven is never dry. My pork roasting prowess however is (was) unspectacular.
I confess to being inspired by a contestant on the recent Australian Masterchef series who slow roasted pork belly to crackling perfection. Through the wonders of TV trickery, it looked as if she simply slashed and seasoned the skin then bunged it in the oven for a couple of hours. I have my doubts.
At worst pork, belly can be fatty and chewy. When cooked with care and precision it’s melt in the mouth tender and sweetly flavoured. The crunchy crackling is a bonus for some while for others it’s the whole reason to eat roast pork. My favourite butcher supplied a small piece of lean pork belly, the roasting was up to me. I wanted perfect roast pork, no compromise.
To ensure blistered crunchy crackling I followed the method described by Kylie Kwong in her book “Simple Chinese Cooking Class.” She stresses that the skin must be dry, very dry. The pork rind is slashed, dried, cured, oiled and salted before it gets to the oven for slow roasting. She recommends a final blast of high heat to give the rind the perfect snap.
I marinated the pork according to Kwong’s recipe but in truth, it was superfluous to the fantastic result. The fat layers of the pork belly had rendered perfectly leaving juicy, tender, sweet tasting roasted meat. The crackling was by far the best I’d ever made. This method was the answer to my roast pork woes.
You need to plan ahead to cook this perfect crispy roast pork belly. The hands on preparation time is minimal, but the pork needs to rest uncovered in the fridge to thoroughly dry out the skin and ensure the success of the crackling.
The flavour profile of the marinade led to an Asian salad accompaniment, but really, all I wanted with my pork was apple sauce. There’s always next time.
Crispy Soy Roasted Pork Belly
1 X 800g piece of free range boneless pork belly
500mls boiling water
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tabelspoon salt flakes
2 tablespoons brown rice miso paste
1 tablespoon Chinese 5 spice powder
1 Tabelspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
Slash the pork rind through to the fat at 50-100mm intervals. A boning knife will do this effectively.
Place the pork rind side up on a wire rack over the sink. Pour over the boiling water to scald the skin. Pat the pork dry then place it uncovered in the fridge for 2 hours to dry out.
Use a sharp knife and stab the pork skin all over until covered in small holes.
Turn the pork over and slash the meat 2cm apart, 1cm deep.
Mix together the marinade ingredients then massage it into the meat. DO NOT marinate the rind.
Put the pork skin side up onto a wire rack that will fit inside your roasting tin. Put the rack on a tray and refrigerate the pork overnight, uncovered.
The next day return the pork to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 150C.
Put the wire rack with the pork on it into a roasting pan.
Rub the skin well with the sesame oil and scatter over the salt.
Roast for 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until tender. The meat should offer no resistance when pierced with a skewer.
Increase the oven temperature to 220C and roast for a further 15 minutes. This final blast of heat will turn the skin to crackling.
Remove the pork from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes in warm place.
Cut into 1cm thick slices to serve.
* History of Food by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat
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Reblogged this on A single serving and commented:
Pork belly is showing up in the supermarkets now! Cooked like this is is a luscious meal!
My gosh, that looks SO good Sandra! Particularly that crispy, crunchy crackling on top! I’ve never cooked pork belly before, but you’ve very much inspired me with this beautiful post.
wow. I don’t think I’ve ever had an Asian pork belly. Love your ingredients – especially the sesame oil. Fabulous!!!
The best way to roast pork belly, never before have I cooked it so well. Living so close to Asia we are influenced by their flavours enormously. Their pork belly recipes are unrivalled
I will keep this method in mind for Christmas- it’s my turn. Looks perfect.
The pork eaters will thank you! Hope it’s warmer there, we’re having another cold snap
It is extremely hot on the border of Lao. Lazy afternoon d a chance to write.
Fabulous Sandra – last time I roasted pork I had to pull the skin off at the end and do it separately, and even then it was hit and miss, so thank you!
And on the Brisbane suppliers, I’m not sure about shops, but I do know they have what certainly used to be the biggest CSA scheme in the country – Food Connect I think it’s called 🙂
Thanks Beck I’ll check out the CSA in Brisbane. Try roasting pork belly this way and you’ll never look back 😀
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that is one crispy pork belly – looks lovely – I have never been game to try making it (I rarely eat pork anyway – except if it is cured !)
Well anything porky that’s been cured is delicious, but this is pork on another level!
Pork belly is favourite of mine. Your post has just started a salivation in my mouth that may only be cured by roasting this juicy cut. Hmm, Sunday night dinner perhaps.
Your first photo enticed, the fab story taught: thanks! Have never particularly been a ‘roasts’ gal: remember coming to Australia and finding the ‘Sunday’ Roast’ quite offbeat a tradition . . . having lived alone for quite some periods in my life had not made one think of that mode of cooking eithrr – BUT this I have to try . . . am a Kylie Kwong girl from way back and have loved every one of the recipes I have ‘lifted’ off your file . . . am wondering: geographically where are you Milady 🙂 ?
Kwong is spot on! In Melbourne for only a few more days then we move to Brissy. I’m excited and apprehensive at the same time. I just hope I can find good suppliers
Oh c.mon . . . unpack first!! Breathe deep . . . be happy!! And Brissie may not be Melbourne, but you will do more than fine! Shall keep my ‘moving wishes’ for you strongly positive!!!!!
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This pork belly looks so delicious and has me salivating! I have to admit free range pork belly sounds a little funny. 🙂
It was sooo good!
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Oh my Sandra. You knocked this one completely out of the park. That is one perfectly cook pork belly with fabulously crispy skin. The photo says it all and made me salivate when I first saw it. Stunning, stellar, awe inspiring… They’re simply are not enough plaudits for this post.
Oh Richard you flatter me! The plaudits belong to the instructions I followed, Kwong is a gem. Every one of the recipes from her book has been sensational
Instructions and recipes are meaningless if you cannot execute. That is one exceptional pork belly and the plaudits are all yours.
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Crispy crackling, moist & succulent meat. Looks so good!
Oh it was delicious…
I’m crazy for pork belly but have never cooked it. That does need to change and your recipe just may provide the incentive!
I was stoked with the result, give it a try Lulu, you’ll be glad you did!
Love a bit of food history. I too was inspired by Masterchef this year to try and achieve the perfect pork and crackling, after average attempts before. I finally got there and it was using the same hot water and ‘drying the rind out in fridge overnight’ method that you used here, and having really deep, even scoring. Your pork belly looks sensational. (Your mums advice on marrying was lovely, did you choose the right bloke on the carving front? 😁)
Nah, I disappointed her! He reckons I did better. At least he was able to earn enough so we could buy the roast! Really happy with this technique, the pork belly was truly fab!
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I just saw Mrs NQN’s roast pork recipe too and now I need autumn to come along early so I can crank up the oven in the kitchen. Roast pork and crackling is my very favourite roast/meal of all time – with apple sauce of course.
Yeah, bring on the apple sauce. It’s absence was a mistake!