Roasted Pork Belly with Hasselback Potatoes, Asparagus and Caramelised Apple Jus

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I love the weekend. I love having not to go to work, getting to spend some quality time with his highness the Dog and, of course, himself. Some weekends are quieter than others: this wasn’t one of them.

Himself’s aunt was 74 on Saturday and we surprised her by turning up for lunch in a restaurant local to her. It was lovely to see her face beam at seeing himself at the end of the table. We had a lovely meal and spent the afternoon chatting and got to have a walk with no rain! Saturday night, we went to pub and, therefore, Sunday I suffered with a grand amount of tiredness and hunger. There was nothing for it only a couch snooze, a read of the papers and an amount of snacking.

I started the day with scrambled eggs and toast. That got me to lunch. After much fridge gazing, my lunch was an improvised sandwich. I had no bread, so used Little Gem lettuce leaves as the carrier for some shredded ham, scallions, grated smoked Applewood cheese and baby plum tomatoes with a sprinkle of sea salt. They hit the spot and carried me through to dinner.

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Pig featured on my dinner menu too. I’ve had some pork belly strips in the freezer for a while; it was as a good as a start as any. Himself’s father gave me a big bag of apples on Saturday evening and they were definitely going to feature. The usual suspects of potatoes and asparagus were also called to the plate (sorry, bad pun). I realise that asparagus is out of season but I had a craving for an iron-y veg, the hung-over belly must be obeyed.

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Roasted Pork Belly with Hasselback Potatoes, Asparagus and Caramelised Apple Jus

This recipe serves one, but can be easily multiplied, just ensure you use larger pots and pans.

Pork
2 pork belly strips (circa 200g)
1 medium onion, peeled and cut
in four slices
2 bay leaves
1tbsp thyme
3-4tbsp cider
1tsp olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper

Potatoes
4 small potatoes, scrubbed well, skins left on
2tbsp olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper

Asparagus
Asparagus, tough ends removed
Half tsp olive oil
Knob of butter
Sea salt

Apple Jus
1 medium cooking apple, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
2tbsp light brown sugar
30g butter
3tbsp cider
50ml hot water

For the potatoes, preheat the oven to 180C (fan)/200C and place the roasting pan with 1tbsp oil in it, into the oven while it is heating. Scrub them very well and dry with kitchen paper. Then, place the potato in the spoon part of a wooden spoon. This acts as buffer for the knife when you cut into them. Cut thin slices in the potato, but don’t go all the way down, the bowl shape of the wooden spoon should stop the knife anyway. Mix the potatoes in the remaining oil and slightly prise the slices apart, in order that you can sprinkle in some of the salt and pepper. Season them very well, and place cut-side down in the hot oil. Roast for 20mins, then turning and roasting for the remaining 40mins cut-side up. The size of your potatoes, will determine the length of roasting. Let their crispiness be your guide; therefore, check them every 10mins or so once they’ve been in the oven 40mins.

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In the meantime, prepare the meat. Season the pork on both sides and sprinkle over the thyme leaves. Lay your onion slices on the base of your roasting dish. Scatter a little thyme over them and tuck in the bay leaves. Pour over the cider and oil and place the meat strips on top. Depending on the thickness of the pork, they will take anything from 40mins to an hour. The strips I used were only half and inch thick so were definitely done in 40mins, with a crispy edge to them as well.

The asparagus will only take a couple of minutes in a hot pan. Sauté in the oil and coat with the butter and sea salt to serve.

To make your caramelised apple jus, melt the sugar and butter over a low heat. Add your apple wedges and cook slowly for 20mins until the apples are golden brown and sticky. Remove from the pan, then break them up with a fork. While you are resting the meat, preheat a saucepan; add the onion pieces and some of the juices from the roasting pan. Pour over the cider and add the apples, let it bubble down for a few minutes until the liquid has reduced by half. Then add the water and bubble again, until you have a very thick and unctuous sauce. If you find the sauce a bit bitter, add some extra sugar to balance the flavours. You can add a little knob of butter at the end to make it even glossier.

To serve, top each potato with a little butter, and pour the jus over the pork strips. Any remaining can be served on the side.

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