Pork belly hotpot with shiitake mushrooms

Main course: Serves 4
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Unfortunately pork belly isn't much used these days. I think the fat puts people off. However, the long cooking in this recipe softens and renders most of the fat away, while at the same time the pork takes on the flavours of the spices. It's a cheap cut of meat with an excellent flavour, better than some of the more expensive and more popular prime cuts.

For the pork hotpot
1kg pork belly, boned, rind removed and cut into 8cm x 4cm chunks
Plain flour for dusting
2tbsp sesame oil
1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium mild chilli, seeded and sliced
50g root ginger, scraped and finely chopped
1 star anise
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1tsp Chinese five-spice powder
50ml light soy sauce
1.5 litre beef stock (good cubes will do)
10-15g cornflour
150g fresh shiitake mushrooms
Salt and pepper
To garnish
1 bunch of spring onions, trimmed and sliced on the angle
A few sprigs of coriander, washed

With a small, sharp knife make a cross in the top of firm tomatoes, and remove the little core where the stalk was attached. Drop tomatoes into a pan of rapidly boiling water for 10-12 seconds and remove with a perforated spoon into cold water. The skins should easily peel away, if not drop them back into the water for a few more seconds. The tomatoes can then be cut in half, the seeds squeezed out and the flesh diced up ready to cook.
br/>Lightly flour the pieces of pork belly. Heat one tablespoon of sesame oil in a thick-bottomed saucepan or flame-proof casserole dish and quickly colour the pieces of pork on all sides. Add the onions, chilli, ginger, star anise, garlic, five-spice and soy. Add the beef stock, bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 2-2½ hours, skimming off the fat every so often, until the pork is very tender. If the liquid evaporates too quickly, add enough water to stop the meat drying out.

Mix the cornflour with a little water and stir it into the stock, add the shiitake mushrooms, cover and simmer for another 25-30 minutes ­ the consistency should be gravy-like.