Slow-braised belly pork with soy, ginger and garlic

Main course: serves 4. Total time: 2 hours 30 minutes
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Indy Lifestyle Online
There aren't many of us who can resist the smell of sizzling bacon, but we often overlook the other exciting culinary possibilities that pork offers

2kg piece of belly pork, rind and bones intact
1 small pig's trotter, split in two lengthways by the butcher
175ml dry sherry, Chinese rice wine or sake
3 star anise
5cm piece of cinnamon stick
several thin slices of fresh ginger, unpeeled
1tsp dried red chilli flakes
300ml good quality, light soy sauce (Kikkoman, for preference)
1tbsp redcurrant jelly
75ml factory-quality balsamic vinegar
30 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
a bunch of spring onions, trimmed of most of their green parts, then washed and finely sliced into shreds
sprigs of fresh coriander
1 large red chilli, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 275F/140C/gas mark 1. Put the belly pork into a deep pot (that has a lid) and tuck each half of the trotter along either side of it; this initial assembly, with regard to the dimensions of the vessel should, ideally, be quite tight. Cover with cold water and slowly bring up to a simmer over a medium flame.

Once the surface begins to generate the most filthy amount of grey despumation, make all haste to remove it with a large spoon while also keeping a close check over the moderate source of heat at all times. Once this has been done, and you are quite satisfied with the results, add the sherry (or equivalent) and simmer for 30 minutes.

Now introduce the star anise, cinnamon, ginger, chilli, soy, redcurrant jelly and balsamic vinegar. Stir all together, return to a simmer, cover and slide the pot into the oven. Cook for one and a half hours, carefully turning the belly over from time to time. Remove from the oven and, using great caution, lift the now very soft and fragile meat from the cooking liquor to a plate, leaving all remaining solids behind.

Now strain the cooking liquor through a fine sieve into a bowl (discarding contents of the seive), return the belly pork to the (perfunctorily wiped out) original pot and pour the strained stock over it. Add the garlic cloves and submerge them. Bring the assembly back to a simmer, replace the lid and return to the oven to cook for a further 40 minutes.

Switch off the oven and remove the pork to a heated serving dish. Using a slotted spoon, distribute the garlic cloves around the joint. Cover the dish with foil and keep warm in the waning heat of the oven. Reduce the cooking liquor over a high heat until well flavoured and beginning to become a little syrupy; watch out, however, for excess saltiness due to the soy sauce content. To serve, spoon the reduced liquor over the meat and strew with the spring onions, plenty of coriander and the sliced red chillies. Serve with plainly boiled rice or - inappropriate as it may seem - plainly boiled, peeled potatoes.

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