This is a great dish to plonk in the middle of a table full of boozey mates with a big bowl of mash.
You will need
A full pork belly (5 lb), skin left on and scored by your butcher
1/4 pt Cider Vinegar, 1/4 pint cider, 1/2 pint water
Good strong homemade chicken stock
A fennel bulb
Salt the scored skin of the pork belly and let sit in the fridge for at least six hours. Rinse under running water, pat dry and place on a board. Massage about 5 oz of brown sugar into the pork belly.
Roughly chop the dried apricots. Set aside.
Core the fennel bulb and finely slice. A mandolin works best here as you want the fennel to be about 2 mm thick at most. Add to apricots and put the lot into a roasting tin. Place the pork belly on top of the fennel and apricots, and pour cider vinegar, cider and water across the scored skin. If roasting tin is the correct size it should just fit the pork belly and about 1 – 1 1/2 pints the vinegar, cider, water mix. Cover with clingfilm and leave to macerate in the fridge overnight.
In the morning remove the pork belly and place it skin side down on a board. Drain the apricots and fennel and place them on the flesh of the belly. Reserve about a cup of the marinating liquid. Roll the belly along the line of the scores. Tie with some butchers string. Place on a rack in a roasting tin and cook in a medium to low oven (about 150 – 160 c) for 3-4 hours or until the meat is tender. Remember to baste the meat throughout the cooking process. When cooked remove from oven and set aside, uncovered, to allow the meat rest.
In the roasting tin, remove the fat reserving all the dark meat juices. Place over a high heat and add some chicken stock. Taste and add marinating liquid accordingly. The sauce should taste savoury and slightly sweet. It should not taste bitter.
Once meat has rested pour any juice that has leaked into the gravy. Carve along the crackling and serve with a big bowl of mash and plenty of gravy.
Makes really good sandwiches the next day. Serve with some mayo and relish on crusty bread.