Crispy Pork Belly with Apple Fennel and Cider Sauce by La Petite Bouchée

This recipe is made using organic cider from Ashridge in Totnes, locally grown apples and some of the finest locally sourced pork you’ll ever taste. It’s then cooked very slowly until the pork melts in the mouth and the crackling is deliciously crispy. This dish just simply oozes autumn and is a huge hit in the restaurant. No trivet required for this slow roast; just build one from the apples and fennel.

Preparation time: 15 minutes | Cooking time: 3 hours | Serves 4

Nigel Barden claims this be his favourite Devon Cook Book recipe, listen to him talk about it on Digital Radio Station, Scala Radio.

What You Need: 
  • 1.8kg organic pork belly (make sure the skin is scored)
  • A large pinch of sea salt and freshly cracked mixed peppercorns
  • A handful of crushed fennel seeds
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 8 large apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
  • 1 large fennel bulb, thickly sliced
  • 2 pints cider
  • A handful of fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • A splash of Calvados
  • Celery cress, to garnish (optional)
  • Seasonal vegetables, to serve
What You Do: 

Preheat the oven to 200°c. Firstly, pat the pork belly dry and score the skin using a Stanley knife. Alternatively you can get your butcher to do this for you.

Using a mortar and pestle, crush the salt, peppercorns and fennel seeds, just so that there is still some texture. Add the lemon zest and bruise it to release the oils. Rub all over the pork, making sure you massage the rub into the skin thoroughly. If you have any rub left over you can simply add it to the sauce.

Place the chopped apples and sliced fennel in a pile in the centre of a large roasting tray and spread out to the size of the pork belly. Place the meat on top of the apples and fennel, and then pour in the cider around the fruit and vegetables. Add a few sprigs of thyme, any of the remaining rub and the mustard, mixing it into the cider.

Place the pork in the oven and cook for 1 hour. After an hour, turn the heat right down to 170°c and cook for a further 2 hours. Remove the pork from the oven and pour off the cider and fruit sauce into a large saucepan. Cover and allow to rest.

Blitz the sauce with a hand blender, then start to reduce the sauce. Check for seasoning and stir in the splash of Calvados.

To plate, place a chunk of pork belly into the centre of the plate, pour some of the sauce around the meat and garnish with celery cress. Serve with seasonal vegetables.

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