“This is a beautiful basic recipe that gives you melt-in-your mouth juicy pork belly with incredible crackling – and it works every time. Carve it up for a mighty roast, or continue slow-cooking until it’s soft enough to pull with two forks. Massive smiles guaranteed. ”
Leave the pork uncovered in the fridge overnight to dry out the skin.
Preheat the oven to full whack (240°C/475°F/gas 9).
Carefully score the pork skin with a sharp knife or scalpel.
Place the bay leaves in a pestle and mortar with the sea salt and give it a good bashing. Add the coriander seeds, fennel seeds and peppercorns, then bash again until fine.
Rub 2 tablespoons of the flavoured salt all over the pork, massaging it into all the nooks and crannies, saving the rest for another day. Brush away any excess.
Clank up the onions into wedges and arrange them skin-side up in rows. Lay the pork directly over the onions, then roast for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the crackling is golden and super crunchy.
Meanwhile, prepare the veg. Scrub the carrots and potatoes, trim the celery and fennel, then clank up into 2½cm chunks and place on a large baking tray. Pick over the rosemary leaves, then break up the garlic bulb and scatter over the cloves, leaving the skin on. Season with salt and pepper, then give it a good mix.
Remove the pork from the oven and reduce the temperature to 150°C/300°F/gas 2.
Using tongs, carefully lift the pork off the onions and place it directly on the top bars of the oven. Position the tray of veg exactly underneath to catch the tasty juices. Cook the pork for a further 2 to 4 hours – after 2 hours, the meat will be soft and easy to carve, after 4 hours, the meat will be soft enough to ‘pull’. Toss the veg occasionally, turning to coat in the pork juices until caramelised and cooked to your liking, then remove. (Pop an empty tray under the pork to prevent the juices from making a mess in your oven.)
To make the gravy, carefully drain the fat from the onions and reserve for another day. Place the tray on the hob over a medium heat, then pour in the cider and let it bubble away for a few minutes, scraping up all the sticky goodness from the base of the tray.
Gradually stir in the flour, then pour in 1.5 litres of boiling water and stir on the heat for 15 minutes, or until thickened and reduced.
When it’s time to dish up, arrange the veg on a serving platter with the pork and strain the gravy into a jug. Carve or pull the pork and plate it up with a little bit of everything. Delicious served with a simple watercress and apple salad, and a dollop of English mustard.