Janet Wynne Evans welcomes a bit of seasonal Irish Mist
Good food is about great ingredients and an important one in the success of the Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry, County Cork, is brilliant daughters-in-law. First there was Myrtle Allen, who grasped the publishing nettle in 1977 with the Ballymaloe Cookbook, then came her daughter-in-law Darina, and, most recently, Darina’s own daughter-in-law Rachel, the television chef. It is to Darina’s book, Easy Entertaining. that I turn for one of the most versatile recipes ever for that most crunch-friendly of cuts, belly of pork, and I hope I may be forgiven for any liberties taken with it.
The possibilities, not to mention the rhyming potential, are endless, so vary the spicing to match your chosen bottle. For a full-blooded garnacha, it could just as easily be cumin, coriander and smoked paprika - El Belly, perhaps, with apologies to molecular gastronomist Ferran Adría. Dried Mediterranean herbs, garlic salt and fennel seeds would favour a velvety sangiovese or primitivo (Ciao, Belly?). The spicy feel of Delhi Belly below would suit gewürztraminer or a ripe, fruity Claret.
Ballymaloe-inspired belly of pork
- 2.25kg pork belly in one piece, rind on
- Sea salt and black pepper
- A heaped teaspoon of cumin seeds
- A teaspoon of coriander seeds
- Seeds of 6 -8 cardamom pods
- Half a star anise
- A pinch of mustard seeds
- A pinch of fenugreek seeds
Note the exact weight of the pork and score the rind along the grain at 5mm intervals - use a Stanley knife or get Stan the butcher to do it. Toast the whole spices gently in a dry pan until your kitchen smells like A Passage to India but not The Towering Inferno. Pulverise them with a pestle or use a coffee-grinder but do keep a spare one for this purpose unless you are partial to curried coffee. Preheat the oven to 160ºC/320ºF/Gas 5. Have two roasting tins ready, and a wire rack which fits both. Season the pork well and rub it all over with the ground spices. Boil a kettle and pour about half an inch of water into one of the tins. Put the rack into the tin and the pork on top. Roast for 30-35 mins per 450g. Baste now and then with the rendered fat.
When the meat juices run clear the meat is cooked. Remove the tin and increase the temp to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas 8. Transfer the pork, on its rack, to tin number two. Return to the oven for 10-15 mins to crisp up the crackling but don’t let it burn.
Rest the meat in a warm place for 15 mins uncovered. Steam makes crackling soggy, so either use the switched-off oven with the door open, a low top oven or a hot tray.
Wilted greens, a bit of wild rice and a glass either of dryish Alsace gewurztraminer or a fruity Saint-Emilion would work well.
Easy Entertaining by Darina Allen is published by Kyle Cathie