I was inspired to cook this dish by the Slow Food movement, which has just celebrated Slow Food Week. I must confess I thought ‘slow food’ meant slowly-cooked food, as in the slow cooker or casserole, but it’s much more than that.
Slow Food is a global, grassroots organisation with supporters in 150 countries around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to the community and the environment.
It was founded as a wine and food association by food activist Carlo Petrini in the small northern Italian town of Bra in 1986. Its initial aim was to support and defend good food, the enjoyment of eating and a slow pace of life.
It then broadened to encompass a wider quality of life and sustainability and environmental issues.
The blurb on its website says: “We work to reconnect people with where their food comes from and how it is produced so they can understand the implications of the choices they make about the food they put on their plates. We encourage people to choose nutritious food, from sustainable, local sources which tastes great.”
I was particularly inspired by the Forgotten Foods project, which gathers together products that are often threatened with extinction because of fast life, intensive production methods and excessive legislation, and attempts to return them to the market. It now has a catalogue of 1,070 products from over 70 countries.
One of those products is the Gloucester Old Spot pig, a cut of which I was able to source from a local butcher’s. It has a fantastic layer of fat, which is incredible tasty and lubricates the meat while its cooking.
The skin also makes exceptional crackling. This is the very simple but very effective recipe I’ve come up with.
500g belly pork, from the thick end
500ml sparkling apple juice (I used Normandy apple juice that I bought form M&S)
A little oil
1. With a sharp, slash the skin at 1cm intervals.
2. Put the pork and apple juice into a slow cooker and cook on LOW for 6 hours.
3. Remove the pork to a plate. Then put another plate on top of it, then finally weigh it down with a couple of tins. Put in the fridge to cool overnight. The weight of the tins and plate will flatten the pork, squeezing out some of the jelly.
4. In the meantime, drain the stock into a jar and put in the fridge. Once the fat has settled and set at the top, skim it off. You can use this to make fantastic roast potatoes.
5. When you are ready to finish the dish, preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 7. Cut the pork into squares and put in a roasting dish. Rub the skin with a little oil and salt and put in the oven. Cook for 20-25 mins, until the skin blisters and crackles.
6. Meanwhile, transfer the jar of reserved stock to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce by three-quarters to make a sticky glaze, then pour over the pork belly squares.
7. Serve with creamy mashed potatoes and steamed Tenderstem broccoli.