Heston Blumenthal’s Braised Pork Belly with Crackling

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Weekends are for cooking. This is a fact. So what better way to take up the entire weekend than by cooking a Heston Blumenthal masterpiece: Braised pork belly with crackling. Brined for 12 hours, cooked for 18. Madness.

Was it worth all the effort? On the one hand, yes: it was a seriously impressive, super-flavoursome piece of meat with a dense bite and great mouth feel. But was it 20-odd hours better than my usual way of slow-cooking pork belly?

Sacrilege, I know, but I have to say it wasn’t. An amazing one-off, but not a whole weekend’s worth of amazing. Sorry Heston!

1kg piece of belly pork, unscored

For the brine
2 litres water
250g salt
1 star anise
3 tsp coriander seeds
3 Juniper Berries
3 Allspice berries
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
1 sprig Rosemary
2 sprigs Thyme
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
3 bay leaves

For the braising liquid
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 leek, white part only, cleaned and sliced
0.5 litre chicken stock
Salt and black pepper
Groundnut or grapeseed oil

1. Using a very sharp knife, remove the skin from the pork in one sheet. Roll up, wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge until needed.

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2. Make the brining liquid by toasting the spices in the oven for 10 mins, then blitz in a spice grinder. Tie them in a muslin parcel with the zest, herbs and garlic. Combine 1 litre cold tap water with the salt in a large saucepan, add the muslin parcel and bring to the boil.

3. After 12 hours, remove the pork from the brine and soak in cold water for 1 hour, changing the water every 15 mins.

4. Preheat the oven to 70C/Gas 1/2 (half). Transfer the pork to a casserole pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add the stock and vegetables. Put in the oven and cook for 18 hours.

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5. After 13 hours, put the pork skin on a wire rack with a tray underneath so that the warm air can circulate all around it.  Cook for a further 5 hours.

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6. After 18 hours, remove the casserole pot and pork skin from the oven. Turn the heat up to 240C/Gas 9. LIft the pork out of the pot and strain the liquid through a sieve into a saucepan. Return half the liquid to the casserole pot and place the pork back into the liquid, taking care to keep the top of the pork dry.

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7. Now, heat the casserole pot containing the pork on a high heat on the hob. Make the sauce by adding a glass of white wine to the saucepan with the stock and thickening with 1 tsp cornflour mixed with a knob of butter.

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8. Return the pork skin to the hot oven and cook for 15-20 mins until the crackling is bubbly and golden.

9. Remove the pork from the casserole pot and dry on kitchen paper. Cut into four chunks.

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10. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and sear the pork on the dry side, taking care not to burn (as you can see, I didn’t take enough care). Cook for 2-3 mins until the golden.

11. Serve with mashed potatoes, Tenderstem broccoli, apple sauce, gravy and a hunk of broken-off crackling.

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