Pig out


“So THIS is why the big bad wolf wanted to eat the 3 little pigs”!
So said my 6-year old after his first-ever taste of pork belly crackling. We were a bit startled by his cheerful nonchalance! He couldn’t get enough of it, those oily little fingers reaching out for more and more; and frankly neither could I. I hadn’t had crackling in years, and before last weekend had never actually cooked it myself.
Oh boy was it good; and the beautiful melt-in-your mouth meat it encased was pretty damn excellent too.
I weighed up Jamie and Nigella‘s cooking methods. Jamie gives his pork a sharp burst of high heat to start with, then turns the oven down for the slow-cooking process. Nigella cooks hers in reverse, slow-roasting first with a hot blast at the end. I chose Jamie’s technique as it required my attention at the start of the process, then could be ignored until finished – ideal for weekend cooking.
I improvised and threw together a simple zesty marinade which worked a treat. The lovely pork belly was served up in soft tacos with pineapple ginger relish, a concoction I made up by adding bits and pieces to the saucepan until it tasted nice, and hot damn did it go well with the pork!
These tacos are my version of one of my favourite Mexican dishes – Al Pastor style pork and pineapple. You can sample the real deal in Melbourne at Mamasita, Fonda and our local, Eat Drink Love Taco in Carlisle Street. Al Pastor style pork is cooked on a huge vertical spit and served up in tortillas with finely chopped onion, lime, coriander and fresh pineapple. So good!
Amazingly we had quite a bit of leftover pulled pork, which I used the next night in a fab mixed rice salad with lime and peanuts; using Rice Plus, a locally-made product my friend Judy got me hooked on. It’s fantastic, a combo of black sesame seeds and grains including brown rice, black rice, red basmati, millet and quinoa. I always have a pack in the cupboard. I’ve made this salad a few times, and usually add chopped leftover roast chicken, but the pork was a fabulous inclusion. This recipe makes enough salad for lunch the next day (nothing better than lunch waiting in the fridge for you in the morning). My boys love the salad too, although I modify theirs slightly – see ‘fussy kid tip’ below. Now, onto the recipes…

Slow-cooked pork belly with cracklingPork belly tacos with pineapple relish[Recipe 1] Slow-roasted pork belly tacos with pineapple ginger relish and crackling

Ingredients (serves 4–6 for two meals, ie. tacos serve 4, salad serves 6):
2 kilo (4 lb) whole free-range pork belly
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt
1½ cups freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 corn cobs, silk and husks removed (to reserve for the mixed rice salad)
Olive oil, extra, for brushing corn
Pineapple ginger relish, to serve
Fresh coriander (cilantro), to serve
10 white corn tortillas, to serve (mine are from El Cielo)

Score the thick pork skin with a very sharp knife, in rows. Don’t cut all the way down to the meat – about 5mm (.2″) deep is perfect. Brush the skin all over with the oil, and sprinkle with salt.
Mix the orange juice, cumin, cinnamon and paprika together and pour into the bottom of a shallow, heavy baking pan. Pop the pork piece on top. Brush the marinade up the sides of the pork. Don’t brush the skin, as it should remain dry.
Note: if you’re using a baking dish that’s tricky to clean, you may wish to line it with a couple of layers of foil.
Allow the pork to marinate, uncovered, for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Keeping it uncovered allows the skin to remain nice and dry which is a must for good crackling.
Preheat oven to 250°C (480ºF).
Roast the marinated pork belly for 30 minutes.
Turn the oven down to 150°C (300ºF) and roast for a further 3 hours, until skin is golden and crispy. With 30 minutes of cooking time remaining, place the oiled corn cobs in the oven on a separate small tray, and roast together with the pork, turning once after 15 minutes. Total cooking time is 3½ hours.
♦ Remove the corn cobs and reserve both for the mixed rice salad.
Remove the pork from the oven and allow to rest, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
To serve, remove the crispy crackling from the top and break into pieces. Pull the pork belly apart with two forks.
♦ Reserve 1–2 cups (as much as you can spare) cooked pork for the mixed rice salad.
Serve the remaining pork belly with warmed tortillas and pineapple ginger relish, scattered with coriander. Serve the crackling on the side.

  • Reserved cooked pork can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 days.
  • Fussy kid tip: my boys loved their pork tacos with fresh guacamole instead of the pineapple relish. I served them a bowl of fresh pineapple on the side.
  • When using coriander (cilantro) leaves, freeze the white roots. They’re great for adding to home-made stock, or pounding into a paste for flavouring curries and stews such as Black bean, coconut and fish stew. Strip the tiny ‘hairy’ roots off before using.

Mixed rice salad with pork and peanuts

[Recipe 2] Mixed rice salad with pulled pork, lime and peanuts

Ingredients (serves 6):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red (purple/Spanish) onion, finely chopped
2 cups (450g pack) gluten-free RicePlus, uncooked
♦ 2 reserved roasted corn cobs, kernels removed with a sharp knife
1–2 cups reserved cooked pork belly, chopped
Sea salt

1 cup coriander (cilantro), chopped
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
60g roasted peanuts, chopped, to serve
Lime and ginger dressing:
2 limes, juiced and zested (⅓ cup juice)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey, warmed slightly
1 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
1 heaped tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion over a medium heat for 3 minutes, until just soft.
Add the Rice Plus and 4 cups of water to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes (this will help any excess liquid to be absorbed).
♦ Add reserved roast corn kernels and reserved pork. Season well with salt.
(At this stage you may like to decant some of the undressed salad to serve to kids – see tip below).
Make dressing by combining ingredients in a screw-top jar. Shake until combined. Pour dressing over salad and toss gently. Add coriander and parsley and serve, scattered with chopped peanuts.
Serve at room temperature.

  • Fussy kid tip: For 2 kids, remove 2 cups of the rice salad before you add the dressing, coriander and parsley. You can serve it with reserved pork, but if you wish to keep the pork all to yourselves (bwahahaha – evil laugh); do as I do and stir a small, drained can of tuna in olive oil through the rice salad. Both my boys love this. A classic tuna, corn and rice salad! It’s equally nice made with leftover chopped roast chicken too. My 6-year old adds a huge slosh of tomato sauce (ketchup) to his, and the 10-year old stirs through some mayo.

32 thoughts on “Pig out

  1. How did I miss this post?!! Ah, yum! I made pulled pork with crackling over the weekend and we’ve been eating leftovers for days (I went a bit overboard and roasted 1.5kg). I should’ve looked up your rice recipe to use for the leftovers! Mmm, love that first photo. Definitely understand the kid’s logic about the big bad wolf. Little pigs are definitely tasty!! 😉 xx

  2. Saskia both of those dishes sound absolutely amazing. I haven’t cooked any pork for awhile now, I should get back on it, before it gets too hot. As for a lime and peanut dressing, always a winner…actually anything with lime is a winner in my book 🙂

    • Thanks Brydie. I go through stages with pork too. Have been cooking it a bit lately though. So nice for a change. Love limes too. I squeeze them on salads with reckless abandon. It’s absolutely salad season here now. We spent the afternoon on the beach today! Can’t tell you how rapt I am to have spent an entire weekend outdoors. Bring on Spring.

  3. I’ve got a very fussy eater here who might just go for pork belly crackling, what a really grand idea! I must second, third or fourth the ‘wow’ over the beautiful colour of the pineapple that you used (and the cloth is an amazing companion piece) – so enticing looking. I’m quite intrigued by the ‘Rice Plus’ blend, sounds really delicious and, dare I say it, good for you! Your son is a total genius 🙂

    • Thanks so much df! I do love that rice mix. The boys aren’t too keen on brown rice, but they happily eat this blend and it’s even healthier than straight-up brown rice! The 6-year old’s comment was a classic. Immediately after it he looked wistful for all of 5 seconds, then calmly plunged his fingers back in the bowl without another thought.

  4. Never made pork belly before and you just “nudged” me to do it. Feeling confident too after your wonderfully written instructions. Now if I can just find the pork belly! I ran out after reading your corned beef post and went to three different markets and could not find corned beef. You can not escape it in March (St. Patricks Day) didn’t realize it is seasonal over here. I love everything about your Pig Out post!

    • I strongly encourage you to try pork belly. It’s just so good! I’ve added it to my ‘regular’ recipe list now after it was so warmly received. That’s intriguing that corned beef is a seasonal thing in the US! It’s available all year round here, but I guess that’s due to our British heritage.

    • The pineapple darkens during the simmering, but I do love mine super-ripe! Nothing worse than white, sour pineapple. I have way more wooden boards than required for normal human use Cass. It may be an addiction. I admit to actually having a ‘board section’ in my kitchen cupboard, and can’t go past a nice old well-used one on ye olde junk shop expeditions.

  5. Whoa whoa whoa — in fact, every recipe on this page looks amazing. You probably hear it all the time, but my goodness those three lads of yours are lucky! I need to get on the pulled pork bandwagon! Looks nice and easy too…. 🙂

    • Aw thanks lovely Sandra. Yes, hoist yourself up on that pulled pork bandwagon girl! It’s so easy, almost too easy. And while we’re on the subject, pork neck is great for pulled pork too. I make these pulled pork po’boys a lot. Meant to mention them in the post. Thanks for reminding me!

  6. I always had a dislike of eating pork – those sweet little piggies. But as always you’ve me convinced to try this recipe, especially the salad with that interesting seed and rice mix. Great for the warmer spring weather coming up.

    • Rice Plus is really good. I’d love to make my own mix but buying separate packs of all those seeds and rices would set my pantry to bursting point! Yep, can’t wait for salad season. Perfect Spring weather today and it’s not even Spring yet.

  7. I love pork belly as it is so inexpensive and so versatile (I love it slow cooked with chines five spice) I often remove the crackling at the end and give it a high blast in the oven while the meat is resting as this renders the rest of the fat off leaving it really crispy – delicious!

  8. 2 amazing pork recipes! I love the look of your crackling on the first picture,…..Waw even! It looks even fantastic,….Fall is coming over here,….the second recipe is also a real winner,mmmmmmm,….I love them both so much.

  9. A pork belly taco sounds really good, Saskia! Well, a pork belly anything sounds good, doesn’t it? I must admit, though, a taco with a bit of cracking inside would be out of this world good. Using the leftovers to make that salad was genius. You really did put that belly to good use. It’s 12:15 am and now I want pork belly. This is not good. 🙂

    • Thanks John! Certainly did put that pork belly to good use. Think I’ll snaffle a bigger one next time. The internet really mucks up one’s internal clock doesn’t it! I’m often drooling over other folk’s dinners online at 6am.

    • Hi Barbara. Pork belly crackling is the best! So salty, crunchy and tasty. Definitely a ‘sometimes’ treat, but with Father’s Day this weekend, I have the right excuse to make it again methinks.

  10. You had me at tacos, and then you progressed to crackling and I was smitten. Though, I have to say, my favourite part of this post is the pineapple tablecloth. Fabulous!

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