Scully thought he knew all there was to know about getting a good crackling on his pork belly until , in 2009, at a food show in Sydney, he learnt the real secret. It was passed on to him by a woman in her late 70s. Scully didn’t get her name but he did get her secret of rubbing half a lemon all over the pork skin, squeezing out the juice as you go, before sprinkling the salt over. It paves the way to crackled glory.
Both the squash and the salsa are great as sides to other dishes: the squash goes with any roast bird or wine-braised shallots and the salsa is wonderfully happy spooned on top of any grilled oily fish.
20g sprigs of thyme
12 large garlic cloves, skin left on but bruised with the flat side of a large knife
4 sticks of lemongrass, lightly bruised with a rolling pin
10cm piece of ginger (100g), unpeeled and cut into 1cm slices
1.5kg pork belly, ribs intact and skin on
1 lemon, halved
60g coarse sea salt
500ml dry white wine
1 large butternut squash (1.5kg), peeled, de-seeded and cut into 2cm chunks
2 tbsp olive oil
30g unsalted butter
1 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp white miso paste
1 Granny Smith apple, unpeeled, quartered, cored and cut into 1cm dice
70g walnuts, toasted and lightly crushed
50g pickled walnuts, rinsed and cut into 1cm dice
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp yuzu juice
(or lime juice, if unavailable)
1 tbsp mirin
10g tarragon, finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
coarse sea salt and black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 240°C/220°C fan/gas mark 9.
2. Spread the thyme, garlic cloves, lemongrass and ginger over the base of a large high-sided roasting tray, measuring 32cm x 24cm. Lay the pork belly on top of the herbs, skin side up, and use kitchen paper to pat the meat dry very well. Rub the lemon all over the pork skin, squeezing the juice out as you rub. Set aside to dry for 10 minutes before sprinkling half the salt evenly all over the skin. Place in the oven and roast for an hour, until the crackling is semi-hard and the salt has turned grey: the aromatics will be very crisp and charred at this point but don’t worry: this is normal.
3.Remove from the oven and scrape off and discard the salt. Spread the remaining half of the salt evenly all over the skin, then return it to the oven. Cook for another half an hour, until the crackling is solid and hard. Remove the tray from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 190°C/170°C fan/gas mark 5. If a bubble has formed on the skin, insert a small knife and gently push it down to let out the air. Pour the wine into the roasting tray, taking care not to touch or wet the sides or skin of the pork belly, followed by 400ml of water. Return the tray to the oven and cook for another hour. Reduce the heat to 120°C/100°C fan/gas mark 1/2 and cook for a final hour. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
4. While the pork is roasting for the last hour, prepare all the ingredients for the butternut squash and the salsa, and as soon as it is out of the oven increase the oven temperature to 220°C/200°C fan/gas mark 7.
5. Mix the squash with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and spread it out on a large baking tray. Roast in the oven for 30 –40 minutes, until cooked. Transfer to a large bowl, add the butter and use a potato masher to crush the squash – don’t over-mash it, as you want some texture to remain – before stirring in the rice vinegar, miso and 1 teaspoon of salt and a grind of black pepper. Keep warm.
6. Mix together all the ingredients for the salsa in a medium bowl, along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a grind of black pepper.
7. Transfer the rested pork to a chopping board. The liquid left in the baking tray can either be discarded – it’s done its work on the pork – or used as a base for a soup or a stew. Discard the herbs from the pork and use a metal spoon or pastry brush to scrape or brush off any excess salt from the skin, then use a large serrated knife to slice the meat into evenly- sized rectangles, 3–4cm thick. If you want to remove the ribs before you slice the meat you can pull and twist them out, but otherwise you can slice between them and serve the meat on the ribs.
8. To serve, divide the warm crushed squash between the plates and place a slice of pork on top. Spoon the salsa alongside or on the side and serve.