This cut of pork, slowly cooked, offers the best contrasting textures. The crackling skin and fatty meat, along with the mellow spiciness of anise and sharp sweetness of orange. It's the ideal festive centrepiece for the inexperienced or kitchen-shy; if you follow the instructions, it's hard to get wrong, yet is highly impressive. Goes well with french beans and roasted potatoes.
7 oranges, halved
1 bunch thyme, roughly chopped
1 bunch rosemary, roughly chopped
1 whole head garlic, cloves peeled and crushed
100ml olive oil
2-3kg pork belly, rind on
Coarse sea salt and black pepper
2/3 bottle white wine
For the star anise reduction:
500ml orange juice
180ml balsamic vinegar
10 star anise
- Preheat the oven to its highest setting. Arrange the orange halves in a large roasting tray, cut side up. Put the herbs, garlic and oil in a food processor and blitz roughly. Lay the pork on top of the orange halves, skin side down, and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using your hands, spread the herb mixture evenly all over the upward-facing side of the meat, pressing so it sticks. Turn the joint over, so it's now skin side up and sitting on the orange halves. (Don't be too fastidious - not all the oranges have to be under the meat.) Wipe the skin dry with kitchen towel and sprinkle all over with sea salt.
- Roast at full blast for an hour, turning the tray around halfway through. By the end of the hour, the pork should have turned a deep golden colour and the skin have firmed up. Turn down the heat to 160C/325F/gas mark 3, pour the white wine into the base of the tray, avoiding the skin, and roast for an hour more. If the belly begins to turn black, cover with foil. For the last cooking stage, turn down the heat to 110C/225F/gas mark ¼, and roast for another hour, uncovered, until the skin has crackled and thoroughly dried.
- Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Put all the ingredients in a heavy-based pan, stir and place over a medium heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 45-60 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and reduced to a third. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
- When the pork is ready, take it out of the oven. To serve, cut the joint into segments of a few ribs each, cutting in between the bones. Plate the pork pieces and orange halves on a large platter, and pour some of the cooking liquids on top, followed by a little of the star anise reduction. Dot the 10 star anises from the reduction here and there over the meat, for decoration, and serve the remaining sauce on the side.