Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music... Ad Infinitum

Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer

As I mentioned recently temperatures in the UK have apparently been playing on a see-saw. That matters not one iota to yours truly as part of my summer ritual every year is too look for recipes that complement the warm weather.

Veggies, please, look away now for this is yet another meat-rich dish. Pork belly, in this case.

As you know, if you have been reading this blog long, I am a fan of Nigel Slater’s cooking. Not just the cooking but also the way he writes and talks about food. He is an artist, as far as I am concerned. So, I shall let him pick the thread of tonight’s post from here.

The roast is resting – those precious 20 minutes after the Sunday joint and its crackling are taken from the oven and left to sit quietly before we carve. The roasting tin may no longer hold the meat, but there is much treasure there to plunder. We could make a simple gravy, and I usually do, dissolving the good things left by the roast into wine, stock or Marsala. But today I use it for something more substantial altogether.
What lies beneath the meat? Caramelised sugars mostly, sweet, gooey and firmly attached to the roasting tin. It is the concentrated essence of the meat, some charred herbs, sizzling fat, a sticky smudge of roasted garlic. A little magic perhaps. To waste it would be a crime.

I pour batter into the roasting tin. It will take 25 minutes in a hot oven, time enough to rest the meat and carve. But there is more to it than that. I have tossed some diced apple, softened first with a few thyme leaves, into the pan. The little cubes of apple sit in the batter, holding it down a bit, soaking up the juices and savour left behind by the pork. It arrives at the table a little late, slightly eccentric looking, but dark and golden, its surface all pits and furrows of batter and fruit, smelling of roast pork and herbs. I could have cooked the batter pudding separately, all spick and span like a clafoutis without the sugar, but that would be to miss out on the opportunity of using the good things left in the roasting tin; of exploring what lies beneath.

Pork belly with apple and roast potatoes

I ask my local butcher to leave the skin on the belly, but to score it in lines about 2cm apart or in a lattice pattern, whichever he thinks will produce the crispest crackling.

Serves 6

belly pork 1.5 kg, boned weight, skin scored
new potatoes 500g
olive oil 3 tbsp
rosemary 3 large sprigs
garlic 4 cloves

Set the oven at 220C/gas mark 8. Place the pork belly flat on the work surface, skin side down, then slice it horizontally, cutting almost all the way through, to give a large hinged flap. Season generously inside and out.

Put a pan of water on to boil and salt it. Wash the potatoes, but don’t feel the need to peel them. Cut each potato into three or four “coins” then lower them into the boiling water. When the potatoes are tender to the point of a knife, drain them carefully and tip them into a bowl.

Pour the olive oil over the potatoes, pull a few of the needles from the rosemary and add to the potatoes with a grinding of salt and black pepper. Place the pork in a roasting tin. Lay the potatoes, as near as possible in a single layer, in between the two layers of pork. Tuck the remaining sprigs of rosemary and the cloves of garlic amongst the potatoes. Pull the top flap of meat over the potatoes, then place in the oven and leave to sizzle for about 25 minutes.

Lower the heat to 180C/gas mark 4, then leave the pork to cook for about an hour and a half, basting occasionally. During this time the potatoes will soften and soak up some of the juices and fat from the meat.

Remove the pork from the oven, check the potatoes are fully tender, then remove from the tin and cover lightly with foil and leave to rest in a warm place. Serve the pork as it is, carving in thick strips, or utilise the roasting tin and its fat with the recipe below.

To get you in a summer mood, I will start with Thievery Corporation. In the same way the caramelised sugars drip onto the roasting tin, Radio Retaliation will drip into your eardrums. Such a beautiful catchy tune.

Talking of catchy, this next melody is by a band that started very raw-blues, but have mellowed down with the passing of time just like those charred herbs, sizzling fat and roasted garlic. The Black Key’s Fever is pure music heaven and groovy, too.

Let us go back now a few decades and sing along this classic. Beautiful vocals and harmonious accompaniment. Just like the diced apple soaking up the juices and savour left behind by the pork. Canned Heat’s On the Road Again is gorgeous.

We finish tonight with a Chilean rapper. Ana Tijoux first came to my attention when I started watching Breaking Bad. Her song 1977 was part of the series soundtrack. Got the album immediately and have been playing it nonstop ever since. Great artist, just like our dish tonight.

Next Post: “Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On”, to be published on Saturday 20th June at 6pm (GMT)


  1. From the picture and the way you've described it I'd like to try it. I've been hearing about "pork belly' for years now. I don't think I've had it and the name doesn't sound very appetizing, but still I would try it if I found it in a restaurant that had it on the menu.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Road trippin' with A to Z
    Tossing It Out

  2. I enjoyed the first and third music clips. The Black Keys won't play in the USA, but I've heard and enjoyed their music before. I'm not a fan of pork but my husband and kids love it - I'll pass on the recipe to him. Thanks!

  3. A mi el cerdo me gusta mucho y tan solo ver la primera foto debe de ser muy sabroso el plato que has preparado.
    Este fin de semana estuve en familia argentina y ellos bien que le dan a la carne así que hicieron una parrillada bien surtida.
    Un abrazo y buena comida.

  4. Excellent music selection tonight.
    Could not see the Balck Keys either, but I know the song.
    Wow. that batter and apples trick is awesome.
    I just got done with dinner and we had (beef) roast tonight with potatoes
    and carrots. I need to remember that batter trick though.

  5. Looking away from the recipe.
    Enjoying the clips. Thank you. On the Road again was a welcome jaunt down memory lane.

  6. Well, I had to look up in Wikipedia what exactly pork belly was. I thought at first it was the stomach of the pig. Thankfully, it is the meat from the pig's belly.
    Still don't think I would be a fan I read pork belly is quite fatty, whereas I like my meat lean. Good music selections...enjoyed.

  7. Great music picks indeed, all over, just like your weather haha don't eat pork at my sea anymore

  8. It seems it would be a tasty dish, CiL, but since "kitchen language" is utterly foreign to me, I would need someone to prepare it while I am shopping for wine.

  9. Hey Cubano--I have been vegetarian for well almost forty-five years! So skipped the recipe though your sweet and open attitude is so lovely in the opening. And thanks for the music--the Canned Heat version is so terrific and the Mexican Rapper blew my mind. My internet is not working but I am in the driveway of a relative (in the car!) Thanks for the uplift on a tired evening. Take care, k.

  10. Love music and food, more vegetables than meat. My recent favorites - eggplants with carrots/onions fried and tomatoes. Thanks for commenting at my blog!

  11. The pork sounds delicious! :)

  12. oh my - i'm all hungry now... that sounds delicious... and i love how he writes about food - you sense that he just loves what he does

  13. I don't do the meat-thing - but the music is fab!

  14. Crikey, first you make the mouth water and then you get me jigging about like a teenager. Yes, I'm hungry for pork belly - absolutely love it. I particularly like the pork belly rashers - trouble is hubby doesn't like them so I usually have to do without. As for gravy, mine was always made that way until I got lazy. Say no more, woman!

  15. You are making me hungry and lunch is two hours away!

  16. I also like to look for new recipes and try them and last night I watched the movie 'Chef' about a guy who (eventually) finds passion in serving Cuban sandwiches to people out of a food truck. Having said that I am not sure I'd like to try pork belly. I would not mind a Cubano though.

  17. I'm not a fan of meat dishes, even your recipe for pork belly, but I like Ana Tijoux!

  18. Thank you all for your kind comments. :-)

    Greetings from London.

  19. I tend to eat meat/pork only when I get the urge, but your recipe does look quite rich and delicious too!

  20. I only rarely eat pork, but I have to say, this is really think I may have to indulge this weekend!
    Many thanks for that...and the music selection. It was fabulous!

    Have a Brilliant Weekend.:))

  21. ouch, now you reminded me of dinner. Kitchen is waiting!



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