Confit pork belly with crispy crackling and black pudding

RECIPE_Confit Pork Belly

‘Happy St Patrick’s Day’ – or Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh’! This is a fabulous pork belly dish, made using traditional Irish produce, which you can make to celebrate this week or at any time of the year.

The feast of St Patrick’s Day is probably one of the biggest international cultural and religious celebrations in the world, particularly in those countries where a high proportion of the population is of Irish descent, such as in the USA, Canada and the UK – and of course, in Ireland itself.

All things Erin are celebrated: music, dance, singing – and of course drinking and food – particularly as St Patrick’s Day, on March 17th, falls sometime during the Lent period, so it is a good excuse for people to make merry and let their (green-hued) hair down!

Traditional Irish food, unfairly, used to have a bad reputation – stews, potatoes, boiled cabbage and the rest, but in recent years we have come to understand that there is a wealth of great traditional and modern fare – and even greater abundance of natural produce. Modern Irish cuisine takes the very best of the marine and land proteins, great vegetables and dairy produce and uses them to create some fabulous and innovative dishes.

This is our take on an old classic – pork belly with crackling and black pudding – served of course with the ubiquitous green cabbage and potatoes – but in a modern and sophisticated style. If you can get Irish black pudding – which can be obtained from some UK supermarkets – so much the better – and make sure that you source your pork from a reputable supplier and butcher – the happier the pig in life the better it will taste on the plate!

This recipe takes a little time to prepare – the meat needs slow poaching (confit-ing) in duck fat and overnight chilling to compress, but the results are well worth the wait: soft, melt-in-the-mouth meat, crisp crackling, buttery fondant potatoes, flavoursome beets and cabbage and a delicious apple and Calvados sauce, served with rich, ferrous black pudding on the side. Bain sult as do béile!

For the confit pork belly:

  • 5kg pork belly on the bone
  • 100g rock salt
  • 4cloves cloves of garlic, bruised
  • a handful of thyme
  • a handful of rosemary
  • 500g duck fat
  • 1 link of black pudding

For the cabbage parcels:

  • 1 savoy cabbage
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 1tbsp fennel seeds
  • 150ml white wine
  • 250ml white stock
  • 100g crème fraîche

For the fondant potato:

  • 4 potatoes, peeled and cut into rounds or your chosen shape
  • 125g butter
  • For the cider sauce:
  • 3tbsp oil
  • 3 banana shallots
  • 300ml cider
  • 50-100ml calvados
  • 1l brown chicken stock or pork stock
  • ½ granny smith apple
  • 30g butter

For the garnish:

  • 1 golden beetroot, boiled
  • 1 beetroot, boiled
  • 50g butter for glazing

To make the pork belly:

Preheat the oven to 100ºC/Gas mark ¼.

Remove the bone from the pork belly and reserve for the sauce. Salt the belly with the garlic and herbs and set aside for 2 hours.

Wipe the salt off the belly. Place the duck fat in a heavy based pan and add the herbs and garlic. Put the belly into the duck fat and heat gently, until barely simmering. Cover with greaseproof paper and the lid and cook for 4 hours.

Remove the belly from the fat. Place between 2 sheets of silicone paper and put a heavy tray on top to keep the belly flat. Chill for 6 hours or overnight. Reserve the fat for finishing the meat.

To make the cabbage parcels:

Remove the dark green leaves from the outside of the cabbage and blanch in boiling salted water, drain, refresh and dry well, trim the thick stalks and set aside.

Shred the remaining cabbage. Blanch in boiling salted water and refresh, leave to drain.

Heat the oil in a pan and sweat the sliced onions with the fennel seeds until soft. Add the white wine and boil until reduced by half. Add the chicken stock and reduce by half again.

Add the crème fraîche and boil to coating consistency. Leave to cool. When cool stir in the blanched, shredded cabbage and season to taste.

Lay out the blanched leaves and fill with the prepared cabbage mixture; wrap the leaf around and wrap up tightly into a ball in cling film. Just before serving; place into a steamer for 3-4 minutes to heat through.

To make the fondant potatoes:

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the potatoes and cook to golden.

Add half of the butter and cook until foaming, reduce the heat and add the remaining butter as necessary, to keep the butter foaming without burning. Keep basting the potatoes in the butter until they are tender and golden. Remove from the butter and keep warm.

To make the cider sauce:

Heat the oil and brown the reserved bones in the pan, add the shallots and cook until golden, add the cider and 50ml of calvados and reduce until almost evaporated, add the chicken stock and reduce to a coating consistency. Set aside.

To finish:

Preheat the oven to 190ºC, gas mark 5.

Remove the skin from the cold pork belly and cut the belly into portions.

Heat a little reserved duck fat in a non-stick frying pan and fry the rind skin side down until it begins to brown, place the pan in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, turning once during cooking.

When the crackling is crisp remove it from the pan and cut to the required shape. Add the black pudding to the pan and place in the oven until heated through, approximately 15-20 minutes. Leave to rest.

Strain the reserved sauce into a clean saucepan and add the diced apple, add calvados and salt and black pepper to taste and whisk in the butter.

Serve the pork belly pieces garnish with the crackling and black pudding, fondant potatoes, cabbage parcels, beetroot and cider sauce.