I hope you all had a lovely Christmas day and Boxing day too. My brother and I had a jolly and festive dinner with friends on the day itself and then had to deal with a huge clog in the pipes (connecting the kitchen sink and washing machine) the following day. As I type this, my very kind landlord and a professional plumber are dealing with the problem. I had to do all the dishes, and there were definitely a lot, in the bathtub.

My First Plate

The Christmas Table

Anyway, back to Christmas day dinner, which was a distinctly porky affair with potato and chorizo croquettes to kick things off. For the main course, roast pork belly with plenty of crisp crackling and on the side, there were pork and sage stuffing balls and cocktail sausages wrapped in bacon. Vegetables were the braised fennel that had been cooking alongside the pork belly and a nice and plain Savoy cabbage with garlic and chili. To end, no pork thankfully, but a lemon and passionfruit roulade. And now a recipe two for one, because it’s a festive time!

Lemon and Passionfruit Roulade Slice

The pork turns out lusciously soft and wonderfully flavoured. I can’t say I was fond of eating the fennel but the flavour it imparted to the resulting jus at the bottom of the roasting tin was fantastic. I hope you like lots of crackling!

Roast Pork Belly

Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Fennel
adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe.
serves 6-8

2 kg piece of pork belly, on the bone, skin scored
3 bulbs of fennel, cut into sixths
8 cloves of garlic
a small bunch of fresh thyme
2 tbsps fennel seed
2 tbsps salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
about half a bottle of white wine

Preheat your oven to its maximum temperature.

In a large roasting tin, toss in the fennel pieces and whole garlic cloves, sprinkle with 1 tbsp of sea salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

With a mortar and pestle, grind the fennel seeds and 1 tbsp of the sea salt to a powder. Dry the pork belly thoroughly and then rub the skin of the pork belly with this powder. Place the pork belly on top of the fennel in the roasting tin, skin side up. Place into the preheated oven. After 10 minutes, reduce the temperature to 160 Celsius.

After slow roasting for 1 hour, take the roasting tin out and drain any fat that has accumulated. Pour in the wine, taking care not to splash the skin of the pork belly. Return to the oven. After another 1 hour, take the pan out and remove the fennel and keep warm. Return the pan to the oven. Add more wine or some water if it looks like the pan is drying out. After 1 final hour, remove the pan from the oven. If the skin doesn’t look crackly enough, increase the heat of the oven and place the skin close to the heat element, checking frequently. Let the pork belly rest out of the oven for 10 minutes.

Serve with the cooked fennel and the delicious jus that has formed at the bottom of the pan. A side of mashed potatoes would be great with this.

Such a heavy and porky meal needs a sharp and light (ha!) dessert. This roulade was a winner – it’s both light and fluffy and lemony and tart and sweet and quite impressive looking on the table.

Lemon and Passionfruit Roulade

Lemon and Passion Fruit Roulade
adapted from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries.
serves 4-6

6 large eggs
100 g sugar
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 1 lemon
2 heaping tablespoons flour
about 300 g lemon curd
300 ml double cream
4-6 ripe passion fruits
icing sugar to decorate

Preheat the oven to 200 Celsius. Line a large (about 36cm x 30cm) baking sheet with shallow sides with baking parchment.

Separate the eggs, placing the whites in a large bowl and the yolks in a smaller bowl with the sugar. Beat the whites to soft peaks. Beat together the yolks and sugar until light and frothy and then add the zest and juice and mix thoroughly. Add the flour to the yolk mixture and again, fold through. Then fold together the whites and yolk mixture, taking care to keep the air in the entire mixture. Spoon the mixture onto the lined baking sheet and spread to the edges, keeping the thickness consistent across the sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until lightly set. Let cool for a bit before turning it out – it will deflate a little.

Lay another large piece of baking parchment on a table and sprinkle lightly with caster sugar. Turn out the sponge onto this sugar and then peel off the parchment that was originally on the base. Cover with a clean and damp tea towel until you’re ready to roll the roulade.

Spread the lemon curd on the sponge. Whip the cream (thin with a little water if needed) until soft peaks are formed and then spread that on top of the lemon curd layer. Cut open the passion fruits, scoop out their seeds and spread them on top of the whipped cream. With the help of the parchment paper underneath, roll up the entire thing. Set on a serving plate and dust with icing sugar. Serve in thick slices.

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