Last week, I came home from work just early enough to catch the tail end of an episode of the Great British Food Revival on BBC2. It was the pork episode and I watched Clarissa Dickson Wright drone on rather soothingly about various rare breed pigs and how tasty they are (I can confirm they are!). One recipe she made was a slow roasted pork belly with anchovies and chestnuts that looked mighty appealing and I went onto the BBC food website to get the accompanying recipe. The recipe listed online was clearly missing a step or two and quantities seemed a bit off; still, I thought perhaps they know what they’re talking about. Well, they didn’t and I had to throw some more beer and water into the bottom of the pan to prevent all the goodies at the bottom from burning. This recipe just confirms that we all need to go with our own knowledge and intuition when it comes to cooking.

Slow Roasted Pork Belly

Anyway, I suppose it was the curiosity about whether chestnuts and anchovies go together that piqued my interest with this recipe. Surprisingly, they did – the sweetness of the chestnuts mixing with the saltiness of the anchovies and really, one can never go wrong with a slow roasted pork belly. While my pork wasn’t from a rare breed pig this time, I did get it from the farmers’ market and it was loaded with flavour. We served it with kale and celeriac puree, the latter recommended by the television show. I’d never cooked with celeriac before and while it’s not perhaps a puree I’d serve with just any old roast, its celery sweetness complemented the savoury sauce created here.

Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Anchovies and Chestnuts
adapted from that on the BBC Food website.
serves 4.

A good slab of pork belly, skin scored (I think mine was about 1kg but you can definitely use a larger slab; I’ve used up to 1.5kg in the past)
3 tbsps olive oil
1 tin anchovies in olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
200g precooked chestnuts (mine were vacuum packed)
freshly ground black pepper
400mL dark beer
1 tsp salt
50mL brandy

Preheat your oven to 230 Celsius.

Take a roasting pan that can be used on the stovetop and heat it over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the oil from the anchovy tin. When hot, add your chopped onion and fry for about 5 minutes. Chuck in the garlic and fry for another minute. Roughly chop your chestnuts (or not…I quite liked them whole if small) and the anchovies and stir those through. Season well with lots of black pepper and pour over the beer. Stir and take off the heat.

Dry your slab of pork belly thoroughly, especially its skin. Rub the salt into the skin, getting it into the scored skin. Place it on top of the mixture in the roasting tin, ensuring that the skin doesn’t get wet.

Place the roasting tin into the preheated oven. After 20 minutes, turn the temperature down to 160 Celsius. Roast for 3 hours. Check it every once in a while to ensure that the stuff at the bottom of the tin hasn’t dried up (and burnt!) and if it’s looking a bit dry, chuck in some water, making sure not to get your pork skin wet.

At the end of the time, check your crackling. If it’s not crackly enough, place your pork (in the tin) under a hot grill and watch it closely. Mine took about 15 minutes under the grill this time but yours might be faster. Crackling!

Let the pork rest for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving with the chestnut and anchovy sauce.

About a month ago, I was in one of the Italian delis in Soho looking to purchase some orecchiette. One of the ladies behind the counter suggested I just go whole hog and buy the 1kg bag. And that’s how I ended up with a kilo of pasta in a tiny kitchen that’s already full up to the gills. Now to use it up.

My favourite recipe for orecchiette is this one – good with regular ol’ broccoli and I guess must be very good with broccoli rabe. Even if you’re not fond of anchovies, do give it a try – they give a deep savouriness to the dish rather than an unpleasant fishiness.

Orecchiete with Broccoli and Anchovies

Orecchiette with Broccoli and Anchovies
serves 2

200-250g orecchiette (depends on how hungry you are!)
1 small head broccoli
olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, minced
4-6 anchovy fillets or a good squeeze of anchovy paste
chili flakes (optional)
salt and pepper

Saute the sliced onion in olive oil over a low heat and in the meantime, set a pot of water to boil. Chop the broccoli into small florets – don’t let the stem go to waste! Peel it and chop it up too. When the water boils, toss in the broccoli. When the onion is golden, add in the garlic and the anchovies (or the paste) and the chili flakes and saute together. Scoop out the broccoli when it’s as tender as you like it, and add to the onion mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind that the pasta will be cooking in salted water and that the anchovies can be very salty.

Add salt and the orecchiette to the boiling water. When al dente, drain and toss with the broccoli mixture. Add a little of the pasta water if the mixture looks too dry. Done!