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Confit pork belly with pickled beetroot and red cabbage cous cous - Sun, 19th Jul 2009
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In a post-masterchef grumpy mood I got creative with the plating of this, but it doesn't have to be so fancy - it'll taste just as good however you decide to do it. It is a bit fiddely though, so have plenty of time to prep. It's all about balance between sweet and sour, so taste each part regularly along the way, and adjust as you go.

Needs:
0.5kg pork belly, cut into 4 pieces. 0.5kg coarse rock salt
4 cloves of garlic, sliced 4 shallots, halved and peeled.
3 beetroots 1/4 red cabbage, chopped into ~5cm pieces.
few sprigs fresh thyme Salt, pepper, sugar, as always.
Olive oil on hand 2 tbsp malt vinegar
150gm cous cous 200ml boiling water
1kg duck fat, or lard. 1/2 tsp all spice
2 star anise 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp cider vinegar 50 ml white wine
2 tbsp butter 1/2 cup raisins

A few days in advance, prepare the confit (actually you can prepare it quite a while in advance, since it will preserve the meat for some time if done properly). Begin by mixing the spices (cinnamon, all spice and star anise through the rock salt. Add the thyme (roughly chopped), 2 cloves of garlic and one of the shallots, finely sliced. In a non-reactive tray, combine this with the pork belly (so each piece is entirely covered with the salt mixture) and leave to rest for an hour. (The original recipe I followed a rather traditional French method, which specifies overnight in the salt. This preserves the meat for much longer, but makes it very salty. If you're only doing it a few days in advance, an hour or so is fine.)

Remove the pork, wash off the salt and pat dry with kitchen paper. Heat the duck fat to between 80-90 degrees (use a frying thermometer if you're unsure) in a pot that will tightly fit the pork pieces. Deep fry the pork slowly, maintaining this temperature for about an hour. Remove the pork and let the fat cool slightly. Sterilise a plastic containter big enough to hold the pork with boiling water and dry with a clean towel. Pour a layer of duck fat about 1cm deep into the container, then refridgerate until set. This forms the bottom seal, below the pork. When it's set, remove from the fridge and place the pork on top. Pour over the remaining fat so that the pork is entirely contained inside it. Refridgerate until ready to use.

On the day, roast the beetroot first: Line a sheet of aluminium foil with baking paper and trim the tops of the beetroot, leaving just a little stalk remaining. Wash thoroughly and place on the baking paper. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle a little olive oil over the top. Wrap up the beetroot in the foil/paper so it forms a tight seal. Roast in a 180C over for 1 hour. (Thanks to Karen Martini for this method of roasting beetroot - it's a ripper!) Remove and let cool slightly. The skins should easily fall off under running water.

Make the garnish cubes first, 3 per plate (and a few spares, just in case!) about 1cm on all sides. Set these aside on a shallow plate. In a small saucepan, combine a couple of tbsp sugar with 1 tbsp malt vinegar and stir to dissolve. Season with a little salt and pour over the beetroot cubes to make a subtle pickle. Refridgerate until plating.

Chop a few slices of beetroot and place in a pan with a couple tbsp water, 1 tbsp cider vinegar and1 tbsp brown sugar. Bring to the boil and reduce slightly. Puree in a food processor and set aside until almost ready to plate.

On the night, remove the pork from the fat and place skin side down in a hot pan. Fry like this for about 5 minutes, or until crackling forms (it's very messy, so a frying shield is a good investment if you don't want to have your kitchen covered in duck fat!). Transfer to a wire rack and warm through in a low oven while you make the cous cous.

For the cous-cous, fry the shallots and remaining garlic in a little of the left of duck fat for extra flavour (or olive oil, if none remains) until slightly browned. Add the cabbage and saute for a few minutes. Finely chop the remaining beetroot and add to the pan with the white wine, raisins, 1 tbsp of malt vinegar and 2 tbsp brown sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Braise gently until the cabbage softens, but not so long that it goes soggy. Add the cous cous to the boiling water and let stand for a few minutes to absorb the liquid. When all the liquid is gone, throw the butter on top and let stand, covered, while the butter melts in. Break up with a fork to separate the grains, then add the cabbage mixture and stir through.

Reheat the beetroot puree in the microwave and use a pastry brush to make the stripe across the plate. Use the lid of a plastic container, or some other wall-like structure to assist in plating the cous cous in a line down one side. Stack the beetroot cubes in the middle and place the pork on the other side. Drizzle more of the beetroot puree along the cous cous, and some around the plate. For a touch of green, add some baby herbs and serve with a rocket side salad.


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