The quality of pork is really important for this recipe. We are lucky enough in this country to have some excellent rare pork breeds, such as Tamworth, Middle White and Berkshire, so please try to source one for this recipe if you can. Pork belly lends itself beautifully to slow cooking. At Le Manoir, we marinate the pork in the spice combination before cooking by sous-vide (a plastic pouch in a water bath), but I will give you the traditional slow-cooking option here too. You can make this recipe your own by varying the herbs and spices you use. The pork belly can be marinated and cooked a day in advance, ready to caramelise just before serving.
Oven-ready pork belly, ribs removed
For marinating the pork:
Lemongrass stalk, bruised and halved length-ways
Freshly ground white pepper
Chinese five-spice powder
Fresh root ginger, peeled and chopped
Red chillies, de-seeded and finely-chopped
For cooking the pork:
Cold water (or 200ml if using a sous-vide)
Sea salt black pepper, freshly ground to taste
Soy sauce (optional)
Toasted sesame oil (optional)
For caramelising the pork:
For the cabbage:
Black pepper, freshly ground
To marinate the pork:
Mix the marinade ingredients together and rub into the flesh side of the pork belly.
Cover with cling film and set aside to marinate for at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 150ºC/Gas 2. Place the pork belly, skin side up, in a large flameproof roasting pot with a lid and spoon over the marinade.
Add 200ml cold water and bring just to the boil over a medium-high heat.
Put the lid on and cook in the oven for 2½ hours or until tender. To check that it is cooked, push the blunt handle of a tablespoon through the belly; the meat should yield easily.
Allow to cool.
Alternatively, if using a sous-vide, pre-heat the water bath to 85°C.
Simply vacuum pack the pork belly with the marinade (no additional water is needed) and cook in the water bath for 5 hours.
Remove from the water bath and allow to cool, then take out of the sous-vide bag.
Once cooled, place the pork belly between two baking trays, place a weight on top and refrigerate.
Strain and reserve the cooking juices.
To finish the cooking juices:
Add 200ml water to the cooking juices.
Bring the liquor to the boil, then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
You can also add a little soy sauce and toasted sesame oil if you wish.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas 4.
Cut the pork belly into portions.
Heat the rapeseed oil in an ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat and add the pork belly, skin side down.
Crisp gently for 10–15 minutes, then turn the pork over and finish cooking in the oven for 10 minutes.
To cook the cabbage:
While the pork is caramelising, slice the cabbage into 5mm strips, rinse and place in a large saucepan with the butter, water and seasoning. Cover and cook over a medium heat for 5–7 minutes until tender. Drain off any excess liquor.
Put the cabbage into a warmed large bowl or the roasting pot.
Place the pork belly on top and pour over a ladleful of the cooking juices.
"Bruising the lemongrass helps to release the natural oils. Simply bash firmly with a rolling pin to do so."
"When you are cooking in a low oven, it is important to bring the cooking liquor to the boil before the dish goes into the oven; otherwise it will take a long time to come up to temperature. With your oven set at 150°C, the pork will reach a temperature of around 84°C–87°C in the middle. This is sufficient to break down the collagen and fibrous tissues, making the pork beautifully tender, unctuous and juicy."
"Pressing the pork belly flattens it, which helps to achieve an even result when you caramelise the skin."