Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Happy New Year! A new year always has a feeling of hope and anticipation for me. No matter what has come before, or what will actually transpire after, when standing on the cusp of a New Year, anything is possible. Perhaps this sense of exhilaration also comes from a wonderful Christmas season. This Christmas was filled with such a feeling of peaceful contentment that, upon reflection, I realized I had missed for a while now. Aside from some last minute gift and food-prep, there was a distinct absence of the “hustle and bustle”…at least in my own mind. Long weekends were spent lazily wrapping gifts while watching C busy himself around the apartment with a hammer, hanging up our paintings. The time in-between Christmas dinners and get-togethers were filled with long naps and catching up on our reading. And the sense of family seemed stronger for me this year…stronger and more precious.

This was something I prepared for a small Christmas lunch in our apartment. Just my mother, my brother, C, and myself. I came across the recipe long ago here, in Keiko’s amazingly beautiful blog Nordljus. The original recipe can be found here. The piece of pork belly I used was smaller than the original 5 kg (we were only four after all), and I didn’t have any fresh thyme (so I used dried), but it turned out delicious nonetheless. I also nixed the sautéed potatoes mentioned in the original recipe; instead we had a green salad.

(adapted from this recipe)

  • 1 piece of pork belly - ask the butcher to remove the ribs (size depends on how many people you are serving)
  • coarse sea salt
  • leaves from a large branch of fresh thyme (or about 2-3 tsp dried)
  • needles from a large branch of fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
  • a large bunch of fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds (if you can find wild fennel, use it instead, finely chopped – I didn’t find any so I had to use dried…but I’m still on the lookout!)
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4-5 tbsp runny honey
  • freshly ground black pepper

- Preheat the oven to 155C. Lay the pork belly skin-side up on your chopping board and score the skin across its width.
- Flip meat over so it is now skin-side down. Sprinkle the salt and coarsely ground black pepper over it, rubbing them well into the meat. Leave to rest for ten minutes so the salt and pepper settle well into the meat.
- Sprinkle the herbs, fennel seeds and garlic evenly over it.
- Next, tie up the meat. Carefully roll the meat up width-ways and tie it very tightly with string in the middle of the joint. Then tie at either end about 1cm/½ inch from the edge and keep tying along the joint. The filling should be well wrapped, if any excess filling escapes from the sides, push it in.
- With your hands, massage one tablespoon of the olive oil all over the joint. Then rub the remaining salt and some more black pepper over it.
- Grease the rack of a large roasting tin with the remaining olive oil and place the pork on the rack, while pouring some water in the tin itself. Roast for 2.5 - 3 hours.
- Increase heat to your oven’s highest setting and roast for 15-30 minutes more to sear skin and (hopefully) produce crackling.
- Remove the joint from the oven and coat with honey, drizzling some of the juices from the roasting tin all over it too. Insert a fork in either side of the joint and lift it on to a wooden board.
- If you want, you can make some pan gravy. Remove all juices and oil from the roasting tin. Return about 2 tablespoons oil with 2 tablespoons flour into the tin and place on the hob and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture turns a nutty brown color. Return juices to pan and add some white wine and about a cup of water, scraping the pan to deglaze. Taste and season if needed.
- Slice the joint thinly and serve with the sauce. Alternatively, leave the meat to cool and slice when needed. It will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

This turned out much better that my first attempt at roast pork…primarily, I suspect, because I would rather be eating a pork belly then a pork loin any day. The stuffing was also incredibly aromatic and produced an amazing flavor…especially the fennel, which I think goes brilliantly with pork. And the honey is just the perfect crown for this dish. Most importantly, to me at least, there seemed to be the beginnings of crackling along the edges. Just a small cluster, fighting to surface, but enough to convince me not to give up hope!

I think the emergence of the crackling can be attributed to the change I made in the cooking temperature. A tip I got from Santos. Instead of a high-heat sear in the beginning of the cooking time, I did it at the end. I also put some water at the bottom of the tin, another recommendation from my first attempt. If anyone has more suggestions, please pass them on. Crackling…you will be mine yet!

Here are some pictures of our gift-opening that day. I got a pink cake stand (hooray!!!) which came with matching aprons for C and I…mine in a retro pink pattern and C’s was the front of a gladiator! I think this was one of the Christmas celebrations I enjoyed the most…so simple and intimate, where the quality of the company was the main player (along with a yummy porchetta) :)


Pille said...

Dear Joey, your Christmas sounds lovely - being content with one's life is a wonderful feeling:)
Congrats on your pink cake stand and new aprons (you've got plenty now!!). I'll attempt that porchetta soon, but not after some weeks filled with light vegetarian meals - we totally over-indulged this time!

Tanna said...

That is what Christmas should be! Contentment and enough to be happy and a little lazy!
Standing on the cusp of a New Year (I like that), don't you think my New Year's Resolution was perfect. Sort of built in success but challenge at the same time. But that's it's big appeal, right?
Loooove that gladiator apron!!! Wonderful!

christine said...

I love the print of your new apron! It looks like it's made from the exact same material as the new bag I bought.

Kind-hearted people like you deserve to be happy and surrounded with love as I am glad you were during the holidays and always. :)

Santos said...

happy new year to you! ah, that pink cake stand is adorable. do you have a turbo broiler? this christmas it was indispensible--perfect for crackling as the heat source is a mere inch or so away from the fat.

Santos said...

oh! scoring the fat with a sharp knife always seems to help me--i think it helps channel the rendered fat away from the surface of the skin so you'll get a more even browning/crisping.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Pille! I agree! And aside from these, and my kitschy Spain apron, I got yet another apron from C's yes, I have a little stockpile now :) I hear you on the vegetarian weren't the only over-indulger this season! :)

Hi Tanna! Yup, what would the holidays be like without a bit of lazy cat-in-the-sunshine moments? :) I love your new year's resolution...will definitely try it this year :)

Hi Nens! It really does match with the bag :) What a sweet holiday greeting! Thanks Nenuks...big big hug!!! It takes a great person to know a great person ;)

Hi Santos! I do!!! It was a wedding gift (picked out by my husband actually)...hooray! I will try that next...along with more scoring...thanks! :)

sandi @ the whistlestop cafe said...

That roast looks fantastic! It is perfect that C wore a gladiator apron while making porchetta.
Love your blog~ I'll drop in for breakfast again!

ces said...

those aprons are fun! and of course you're porchetta is simply perfect! i must admit i am tempted to try this even if we promised to cut down on our meat intake this year! lol!

Ivonne said...

Porchetta is a dish near and dear to my heart and your preparation is very similar to how we prepare it.

It looks wonderful!

Happy 2007!

Mona said...

I love your aprons! They are so cute! Sounds like your holiday was a special one this year, Joey. I'm so glad. And that porchetta?! Wow, that looks amazing. Someday when I am overcome with the guts of a gladiator I will attempt it :)

Socky said...

I lurve just lurve pork! And your porchetta is making me so hungry for lunch - and it's not even 10am! I promise to try the recipe as soon as my vegetarian friends are not around. He-he.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Sandi! Thanks and thanks for dropping in :)

Hi Ces! Thank you :) Oh boy...we are all trying to cut down now...I'm off to buy some veggies today as we are also seriously in need of some "greenery" here :)

Hi Yvonne! Happy new year! Thank you :) This is the first time I have tried porchetta and would love to see one that is tried and true, have you ever posted about it? I will go check :)

Hi Mona! Thanks! We love them too :) That's why I was wearing mine even throughout the opening of the other presents! With regards to the porchetta, I find it easier to prepare dishes with nice substantial hunks of meat than with things light and delicate like, say, egg whites :)

Hi Socky! Hehe! Thanks :) It's actually really easy, and since the belly has layers of fat it's not prone to dry out. Look for a piece that's nice and flat with an even distribution of fat and meat...tell the butcher to cut out the ribs (I saved these for stock) :)

in-JeN-iosiTy said...

Delicious lookin' Porchetta! How appropriate, for 2007 is the year or the PIG!

Happy NEW YEAR to you and your darling----may you have a great year filled with great food!!! OINK! OINK!!!


angelika said...

Hi Joey, oh I would love to smell - and try - your porchetta ! Though I rarely cook pork I should give it a try. Maybe one day in my kitchen where I will be able to combine steam and heat in one oven. By the way, how can a crackling loving person ever be so SLIM ? Envy....

Much love....

ChichaJo said...

Hi Jen! You know, I didn't even realize it was year of the pig when I made this? Hooray! I will definitely use that as an excuse to make more pork dishes (even if all I should be having now is crackers and water and maybe a carrot!)

Hi Angelika! Your kitchen will be so amazing! I'm so excited to see the "work in progress" :) Sigh...everything in moderation, heehee, but I am not exactly slim! The crackling has given me a pair of generous hips that I use for slamming drawers and doors shut as I sashay down my little kitchen! :)

veron said...

I love pork. Your porchetta looks sinfully delicious and my mouth is watering right now. I'm also on the quest for crispy skin, do you think chilling in between cooking might help. I got the idea from Gordon Ramsay

Look for his pork belly recipe.

I also heard this from my sister in law but this had to do with "Crispy Pata" deep fried pork trotter. She said boil it first then chill overnight before cooking it in hot oil.

veron said...

trying again...

in-JeN-iosiTy said...

Yes Joey! A fabulous reason to have pork all year long---for GOOD LUCK and PROSPERITY!!! hahahaha No one (especially not you) should be having JUST crackers and water! tsk tsk tsk... Crackers are CARBS (d ba?! ;P hahaha) So another great reason to have pork---hahaha! Just kiddin'.

Now, shall we have Priston?! =)

steen said...

Congratulations on a happy holiday.

The porchetta looks yummy. I'm inspired!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Veron! Thanks! :) And thanks for the tips and the link...will check is out. if I chill it I would do so in between the long low-temp roasting and the hi-temp searing right?

Hi Jen! We obviously attended the same school of logic that says crackers would be carbs ergo eat pork! :) Yes, I so understand! :) Pritson rocks!

Hi Steen! Thanks for dropping by :) You should try it! It's easy, yummy, and after all what's a big hunk of pork between friends right? ;) (Love that sub-heading!!!)

dexiejane said...

very fancy joey. like your new apron too . :)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Dexie! Thanks :) Can't wait to use it (no more splatters on my white tank tops!) :)

Socky said...

Hi, Joey. This is my reply to your comment posted in my blog: You're in luck! The foodstall where I got the liempo-on-a-stick is across your apartment, the one that used to be Zagu, at Salamin Building. Yes, year of the pig. Are you doing a series on pork dishes? Your post on porchetta is a perfect start.

Nicky said...

The pink apron looks so bright and retro, love it! My only problem with stylish aprons is that I never wear them ;( They hang on the wall in my kitchen, yet I keep staining my regular clothes because I tell myself, the cooking won't take long enough to put it on...

ChichaJo said...

Hi Socky! Hoooraay! That's good/bad news for me...I so need to do some post-holiday fasting :) As caught me...I cooked binagoongan baboy for dinner (recipe still being tweaked)! Yikes!!!

Hi Nicky! Maybe this will be the year for be-aproning ourselves :)

Midge said...

Hi, Joey! Happy New Year!

That porchetta looks magnificent; yes, pork belly is better than the loin.

Thanks so much for tipping me off about Co-op and Sango. The things I got are all lovely and I'll be doing a post about some of the newest Japanese snacks soon.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Midge! Thanks! I'm glad you liked Sango and Coop...I knew you would :) Those Japanese goodies are tempting...even though I don't know what half of them, yes please post about them with explanations! :)

Barbara said...

I love the pink apron, I love anything pink. I saw a tv show recently where they removed the skin from the pork, cut it in strips and baked it in a separate pan.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Barbara! I also love pink! Even when people make fun of me for being too girly...hello, that is what I am! :) A local department store here is stocking up on all kinds of pink kitchenware and I am totally smitten!

Thanks for passing on the pork skin info...I must try that one day! :)