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.
||0.5kg pork belly, cut into 4 pieces.
||0.5kg coarse rock salt
||4 cloves of garlic, sliced
||4 shallots, halved and peeled.
||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.