Traditionally, Christmas is the time we get to serve roast turkey. But alas, my wife’s family is not lover of turkey, and for many years after we were married they kept quiet about not liking turkey.
It wasn’t until one year when there were no turkey available in Malaysia because of an import issue, that I found out that they weren’t that keen on the bird in the first place. So we looked for a festive option that retains all the flavours of roast turkey but with a different meat.
I basically used the stuffing ingredients that I usually put into a turkey and stuffed them into a pork belly rolled up into a barrel. The best thing about roasting it this way is that as the fat renders from the pork skin, the round shape helps drain away the fat and makes getting the crispy crackling so much easier.
While I’ve never used apples in my turkey stuffing, it made sense to me to add apples into this pork recipe because these two flavours pair so well together. Not only do the apples add moisture into the roast they also contribute to the overall flavour profile.
Instead of using just water to create the steam in the oven, apple cider has the perfect balance of sweet and sour to match with the richness of pork. Although the alcohol would’ve spirited away in the roasting, its flavour has intensified into the pan juices that become an excellent gravy for the pork and stuffing.
Pair the dish with a nice Pinot Noir and this will be a Christmas dinner that your family will ask you to repeat year after year.
- 3kg whole slab of pork belly
- 3 cups diced bread
- 6 rashers of streaky bacon
- 1 cup diced onions
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 bulb garlic, minced
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 cup roasted chestnuts
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup diced apples
- 1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, quartered
- 10g parsley
- 10g sage
- 10g rosemary
- 10g thyme
- 1 can apple cider
- 100ml olive oil
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons flour
- Score pork skin with a knife or punch all over with a pork skin pricker. Season all over with 2 teaspoons salt and lay flat skin side up in refrigerator until needed.
- Cut bacon into small pieces. Saute in frying pan until lightly brown. Add diced onions, garlic and olive oil and saute until wilted. Remove from heat.
- Add celery, bread, walnuts, chestnuts, cranberries, apples, mushrooms and all the herbs. Toss until well mixed and the oil absorbed into the bread. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon pepper.
- Place pork skin side down and fill centre of belly with bread stuffing. Bring up both ends of pork belly to meet together into a barrel roll and tie up with kitchen string. Continue to add stuffing if necessary.
- Place stuffed belly raised on a rack in a roasting pan. Drizzle all over with olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. Pour apple cider into roasting pan and add any remaining stuffing into pan.
- Roast on centre rack in preheated 250°C oven for 1 hour, then continue to roast at 150°C for another 1 1/2 hours, basting and turning every 30 minutes for even roasting. Tent the top with aluminium foil if it starts to burn.
- For the last 30 minutes, turn oven up to 250°C and raise the rack to crackle the pork skin. Rotate the barrel roll every 5 minutes to get even crackling. Remove from oven when all the skin has crackled.
- While meat is resting, make gravy with pan juices. Skim off all the roasting grease and reserve 2 tablespoons to heat in a saucepan. When fat has stopped sizzling, add 2 tablespoons flour and bring heat down to low. Slowly brown the flour, stirring constantly with a whisk to keep from burning. When flour has become brown, add pan juices a little at a time to form a smooth gravy. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and serve with pork and stuffing.