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Slow roast and grilled belly pork

Not so much a recipe this week but rather a cooking tip from Albufeira resident Anthea Morgan.

Belly is one if the cheapest cuts of pork, often shunned because of its high fat content, but without a doubt one the most rewarding when cooked correctly.

The crackling is also superb and it is an incredibly versatile meat.

The secret to cooking it well is to roast a piece that is of almost uniform thickness, very long and slow, rendering out much of the fat and tenderising the meat, followed by gentle grilling at the end of cooking to crisp up the thick layer of crackling.

The uniform thickness is very important for the grilling stage as the skin that is closest to the grill will start to burn before the rest of it crisps up.

If your butcher does not have cuts of even thickness, just buy a larger piece and cut off a section for roasting. The rest of the (lean) meat can be cut up and frozen as it works very well for slow stewing or curries.

Once you have your piece of evenly thick belly, rub on the meat side with your preferred flavour combination. For Chinese, try crushed star anise, garlic, ginger and soy or for western flavours I like to use sage, garlic and black pepper. Do not put any liquid from marinade or wet rubs on the crackling, just rub in a little rock salt.

A very sharp knife (or even a Stanley knife) is vital for scoring lines in the skin. Cut right down to the layer of fat below, if possible without cutting into the meat. This helps the crackling to crisp and expand whilst also making carving a great deal easier once cooked.

Roast for five hours, uncovered, at 110ºC in the middle of the oven then turn on the grill mode, leaving the meat in the middle of the oven at least 20cm lower than the grill element of flame.

Keep the over door open watching all the time as the crackling starts to pop and rise and keep on grilling until all of the crackling is totally crisp, but, be careful, a few seconds too long and it will start to burn.