Pork belly du jour
This is a pretty simple recipe for pork belly, which I like to think is also foolproof. The pork belly is scored, covered in a reasonable amount of salt, and then baked. If it doesn’t crisp, simply return to the oven and bake longer. The salt helps dry out the crust, as does the hot oven.
This is a great technique for getting the skin of pork belly crispy for this salad, but it is also a great technique to have at hand. The pork belly would also be terrific served with a little bit of wilted cabbage and apple, and a little mustard on the side. Better still, when left after roasting to cool, it is perfect in a roll with raw onion and apple sauce.
The walnuts in this recipe are pickled. It takes months to do this yourself, using a young green fruit that is picked before any shell has developed. But they are fine to buy off the shelf.
These pickles are English in heritage, and I find them to be one of my favourite accompaniments to meat. They are soaked in brine, which causes them to turn black, and then rinsed and preserved in vinegar brine. The finished walnut has a richness of flavour and an umami quality from the brine that in the end does not resemble walnut flavour at all.
They can be chopped and put into a braised beef and onion dish. Equally, they are good served with a sharp cheese or charcuterie.
A good pickled walnut should be firm enough to slice. I’ve made them before and had a finished walnut that could be shaved almost like a truffle. The only reason I’ve not continued to pickle them myself is that it is very difficult to source green walnuts. If you are reading this, and are a walnut grower or have a walnut tree, please get in touch.
This salad calls for chicory, which is a terrific bitter green. The leaves balance out the sweetness of the pork and the vinegar from the walnuts. At a time of year where we are not eating as many raw vegetables as we possibly should be, I like this salad for its structure and textures. Often, I would try to suggest an alternative for a salad such as this – a way to make the salad without the pork. Unfortunately – although I’m not very upset about it – the pork belly is the whole reason for this salad.
Roast pork belly
– 1.2kg piece pork belly
– 4 tbsp fine salt
Preheat oven to 240°C.
Using the tip of a sharp, thin knife or a metal skewer, prick holes all over the skin of the pork belly. Sprinkle with salt in an even layer.
Place the pork, skin side up, on a rack in a roasting tray. Pour cold water into the tray to a depth of about two centimetres, making sure it doesn’t touch the belly.
Roast the pork for 40 minutes.
Remove the pork from the oven and brush off the salt crust that has formed.
Let the pork rest for 15 minutes before slicing.
Salad of pork belly, pickled walnuts and radicchio
– ½ bunch chicory; small, pale leaves only
– ½ head Castelfranco radicchio (substitute radicchio if necessary)
– about 600g roasted pork belly (see recipe above)
– 2 pickled walnuts
– 1 tbsp capers
– 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
– ½ tbsp red wine vinegar
– 3 tbsp olive oil
– ½ tbsp pickled walnut juice
Wash and dry the chicory and radicchio leaves.
Slice the roast pork belly into two by five-centimetre pieces, making sure to include the delicious, crisp skin.
Chop the pickled walnuts into pieces the size of a plump raisin.
Prepare the dressing by whisking together the mustard and vinegar. Slowly add the oil until the dressing has emulsified. Whisk in the pickled walnut juice last.
Gently toss the leaves, pork and half each of the capers and pickled walnuts with the mustard dressing.
Arrange the salad in a serving dish and sprinkle over the remaining capers and pickled walnut pieces.
2011 Sutton Grange Estate, rosé, Bendigo, Victoria ($32)
– Liam O’Brian, sommelier, Cutler & Co
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 25, 2015 as "Belly du jour ". Subscribe here.