Scully, the undisputed king of evening service at Ottolenghi Islington, makes the crispest and tastiest pork belly. You enjoy it in two stages: first, when the crackling breaks in your mouth with a crunch, like flaky pastry; second, when the perfectly tender layers of fat and meat melt on your tongue, imparting delectable smoky and herby flavours. Scully also comes up with the perfect seasonal relishes to go with the pork. Here are two of his creations, but there are infinite other combinations of fruit and spice that we would encourage you to explore. The quantities suggested here will probably leave you with some leftover relish to use later. Serve with anything from mackerel to roast turkey. They should keep in the fridge for at least 10 days, probably longer. When cooking the pork expect quite a lot of smoke in the kitchen due to the high initial oven temperature. Make sure you keep a window open.
1 bunch of thyme, roughly chopped
1 bunch of rosemary, roughly chopped
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and crushed
150ml olive oil
1 piece of pork belly, weighing 2–3kg
1 bottle of white wine
coarse sea salt and black pepper
- Heat the oven to 250°C/Gas Mark 10 or its highest setting. Place the herbs, garlic and olive oil in a heavy-duty blender or food processor and purée them roughly.
- Lay the pork belly in an oven tray, skin-side down, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Use your hands to spread the herb mixture evenly all over the top, pressing it on so it sticks to the meat.
- Turn the belly skin-side up, wipe the skin dry with kitchen paper and sprinkle sea salt evenly all over the skin (but don’t put too much on as it might create a crust and prevent the crackling forming). Put the tray in the oven and roast for 1 hour, turning the tray around every 20 minutes. Once the skin has formed some crackling, turn the oven down to 170°C/Gas Mark 3, pour the white wine into the tray (avoiding the pork skin) and continue roasting for another hour. If the belly starts turning black, cover it with foil.
- For the last cooking stage, turn the oven down to 110°C/Gas Mark ¼ and continue roasting for another hour, until the skin has crackled completely and thoroughly dried.
- Remove the pork from the oven. Use a sharp knife to divide it into segments of a few ribs, cutting between the rib bones. Give as many ribs per portion as the appetite demands. Serve with relish (opposite) on the side.