Winter Warmer Recipe: Roast belly of pork
1.5kg piece pork belly, deeply scored
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp flaked sea salt
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper, plus extra to season
3 medium apples, peeled, quartered, cored and cut into thick slices
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
good handful fresh sage leaves
2 tsp plain flour
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 240C/fan oven 220C/gas mark 8. Place the pork on board and pat the rind dry with kitchen paper if it feels at all damp. Mix the thyme, salt and the ground black pepper. Rub the seasoning mixture into the pork rind and the underside of the pork.
Place in a sturdy roasting tin or deep baking tray and roast for 25-30 minutes. This will give the rind a chance to bubble and become really crisp. Reduce the oven temperature to 180C/fan oven 160C/gas mark 4 and continue roasting for a further 1 hour.
Toss the apples with the onions, whole sage leaves and a few twists of ground black pepper. Make a compact pile in the centre of a clean, smallish roasting tin. When ready, remove the pork from the oven and place on top of the apples and onions, keeping the apple and onion pieces snugly underneath the meat so they don’t burn. Keep first roasting tin to one side because you’ll need the cooking juices to make the gravy. Return the pork to the oven and cook for a further hour until the meat is really succulent and tender.
Skim off any fat from the cooking juices and place the roasting tin over a medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in the cider and the water and bring to a simmer. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring. Strain through a sieve into a small saucepan and season to taste. Set aside.
When the pork is cooked, transfer to a board. Scoop up the apple and onion with a large spoon and place in a warmed serving bowl. Reheat the cider gravy until bubbling and cut the pork into thick slices. Serve the pork and crackling with the apple and sage, and gravy for pouring.