Roast pork belly with spiced apples

One of the questions I get asked the most is how to get a really crispy crackling on roast pork, and it’s easier than you think. I have tried every trick in the book, from drying the skin out overnight, pouring boiling water on the skin, patting it dry, rubbing it with oil, you name it. What I have found that above all these helpful tips, the single thing that matters the most to achieving that prized crunch is actually my oven setting. I had always used the fan forced function but would still get soft spots on the skin, but since converting to using the conventional oven setting, or top and bottom elements, (my oven uses the fan too but not all conventional ovens do) I have had nothing but 100% success! Put simply, fan forced uses the element at the back of your oven to circulate heat, whereas a conventional setting uses the top and bottom elements, giving the pork skin the direct heat it needs to render down, bubble up and turn super crunchy and totally irresistible. Happy cooking!

What you’ll need:

1.5 – 1.7 kg pork belly, skin on and de-boned (reserve bones)
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp sea salt flakes
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
250ml chicken stock
2 tbsp brown sugar
3 granny smith apples, cored and quartered
6-8 small shallots, peeled
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick

What to do:

Heat a frypan over high heat and toast the coriander and fennel seeds for 1-2 minutes until fragrant, transfer to a mortar and pestle and pound until ground. Score the pork skin at 1cm intervals and rub spice mix all over pork; place skin-side up in a medium roasting tray and refrigerate, uncovered, overnight.

Preheat oven to 200°C either Conventional or Fan Assisted function.

Rub salt all over pork, including the skin, place the reserved pork rib bones in the roasting tray to use as a trivet and sit the pork belly on top; roast on the middle shelf for 60 minutes until skin has bubbled and started to crisp; reduce temperature to 180°C and cook for a further 45 minutes. In a small jug, mix together the vinegar, stock and sugar. Remove the pork from oven and spoon out excess rendered fat then pour the vinegar and stock mixture into roasting pan (take care as hot fat may spit), along with the apples, shallots, star anise and cinnamon. Transfer back to the oven to cook for another 20 minutes or until the shallots are tender and the sauce has reduced. Rest the pork for 15 minutes before turning upside-down to cut thick slices neatly through the crackling. Discard cinnamon and star anise from the spiced apple sauce and serve alongside the pork.

Recipe, Food styling and Photography by Karen McFarlane.

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