2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons Chinese five spice
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
1 kg piece boneless pork belly
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 shallots, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 bay leaf
1½ cups unsweetened apple juice
1½ cups Chicken Stock
½ cup dried cherries
Simple Roasted Pumpkin
½ small pumpkin, peeled and cut into half-moon slices
2–3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
My family hails from Northern Michigan, where cooking with cherries is a part of life! And who can resist the delicious, crispy goodness of crackled pork skin?
Combine thyme, sea salt, five spice and coconut oil and rub the mixture onto all sides of the pork belly. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 140°C. Remove pork from refrigerator, unwrap and place in a roasting pan.
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over a medium-high heat.
Add shallots and garlic and cook until soft, then add bay leaf and cook for another minute. Pour in apple juice and stock, and bring just to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour into the roasting pan, around the pork belly. Cover the pan with aluminium foil and place in the oven to braise for 3 hours.
Remove pork from oven and turn oven up to 180°C.
Remove pork from the braising liquid and cover with the foil to keep it warm while you cook the pumpkin. Toss pumpkin pieces with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 30–40 minutes, until slightly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
Remove pumpkin from oven and set oven grill to 220°C.
Strain the braising liquid through a sieve into a saucepan, stir in the dried cherries and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 20–25 minutes until reduced and slightly thickened.
Meanwhile, place the pork belly back in the roasting dish and place under the grill for 15–20 minutes, until the skin is deliciously golden, crispy and crackling. You can keep the pumpkin warm on the shelf below.
Serve the pork belly warm with the reduced sauce and cherries, with Simple Roasted Pumpkin and a green salad on the side. Serves 4.
Place pumpkin in a hot oven for 5–10 minutes before you cut it up – the skin will soften, making the job much easier. Look for dried – not glacé – cherries in the baking aisle of the supermarket, with the raisins and other dried fruits.