Pork Belly Joint - about 1kg
1 tbsp fennel seed
1 tsp sea salt
2 large red onions, cut in wedges
2 red peppers cut in wedges
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
sprig fresh thyme
75cl dry cider (or a 50cl bottle plus water will do)
175g puy lentils
- Preheat the oven to 250°C, gas mark 9. Dry the meat thoroughly with kitchen paper. In a pestle and mortar, crush the fennel seeds with the salt until they form a fine powder. Rub this over both sides of the pork, pushing it deeply into the scored fat.
- Place the peppers, onion wedges, garlic and thyme in a roasting tin a little bigger than the pork. Put the pork, skin side up, on top, making sure that the vegetables are completely covered by the pork, otherwise they will burn.
- Roast for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 150°C, gas mark 2 and cook for a further 2 hours. Remove the tin from the oven, leaving the meat juices in the tin. Stir in the cider and lentils around the pork, being careful not to splash the crackling.
- Return the tin to the oven and increase the heat to 170°C, gas mark 3. Cook for a further hour, stirring the lentils twice during that time. Remove from the oven and leave to rest in the tin for 5 minutes.
- Lift the meat onto a board remove the skin and, using a large heavy knife, cut into slices. If the skin has not fully crackled put it in a baking tray under a hot grill for a few minutes to finish it off. Remove the thyme stalks and discard. Season the lentils to taste. Return the pork to the tin and serve, along with plenty of green vegetables and a dollop of English mustard.
So here we go again, more lentils. This time with pork belly - one of my favourite cuts of pork if cooked slowly so the fat renders and the skin crisps up. It also has the benefit of being (unfairly) unloved by lots of people and therefore a cheap cut. In fact this is a cheap, nutritious meal full of flavour. I have adopted it from an original onthe Waitrose website which called for red wine as the braising fluid. I thought this would end up with everything being TOO dark and rich. As I was feeding the Offspring I thought I should try and keep it a little lighter so I substituted dry cider for the wine.
The result was very tasty. The pork was succulent and the lentils, which benefited from being cooked in pork fat and cider had a deep but fruity flavour which I really liked. I had left overs the following day which were nice cold and I then sprinkled some feta over remaining lentils to make a salad type of thing for lunch. This works best if you are a little thoughtful about the vegetables that you roast simultaneously. I didn't have any celery which the original recipe called for but used red peppers and carrots in addition to the onions and garlic. The red peppers worked, the carrots not so much - but then I am sceptical about roast carrots nearly always.
Definitely worth a try during winter. I added extra lentils so as to have leftovers for lunch. Up to you,You can also strain off extra cooking liquid when the lentils are ready to make a jus.