Pork might not be everyone’s first thought when it comes to Christmas feasting, but the spice of black pudding and the scent of sage give this dish a decidedly festive feel (plus, I haven’t yet met a carnivore that doesn’t like a crispy crackle). Brining helps keep the pork juicy and ensures a nice, even seasoning throughout the meat, so it’s well worth the extra time and effort. And it’s Christmas, after all.
Roasted pork belly stuffed with black pudding, sage and apple
If black pudding just isn’t your thing, just double the amount of Cumberland sausage meat or substitute with an entirely different type of sausage.
Preperation 10 minutes
Salt water 8 a.m.
to cook 2h15
For the brine
200g table salt
2 liters of water
For the roast
2½kg pork belly
1 onion, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
Vegetable oil, for frying
150g black pudding (peeled, if needed; optional)
150g Cumberland sausage meat (or 300g if no black pudding)
1 Braeburn Apple, peeled, seeded and cut into 1cm dice
10 sage leaves, cut in chiffonade (i.e. in very thin strips)
First prepare the brine. Dissolve the salt in the water, then put the pork in a large container for which you have a lid and pour the brine to cover. Put the lid on and refrigerate for eight hours.
In a skillet, sweat the onion in a little oil for about eight minutes, until softened, then remove from the heat and let cool.
In a bowl or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the softened onion, black pudding, sausage meat, diced apple and sage until well combined. Scrape the mixture onto a board, then form a log the same length as the longest side of the pork roast.
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/Gas 4. Drain the pork (discard the brine) and pat dry with a kitchen towel, making sure the skin is as dry as possible. With a sharp knife, incise the skin everywhere in parallel diagonals at 1 cm intervals and in both directions, so as to obtain a criss-cross effect (try not to cut too deeply into the fat, as this will prevent the skin from become crisp). Roll the pork roast around the stuffing mixture, to enclose it, then tie with butcher’s twine to hold it in place – this can be quite tedious, but it’s important to tie the roast as tightly as possible; you will need at least six loops in total.
Transfer the stuffed pork to a baking sheet, then roast for an hour. Raise the heat to 240C (220C fan)/475F/Gas 9 and roast for another 30 minutes, to crisp the skin (for even crispier skin, you can also sauté the joint under a very hot grill for just a few minutes before serving, but be sure to keep an eye on it).
Remove from oven and let rest for at least 30 minutes before carving and serving with roast potatoes, gravy and the vegetables below; a few roasted apple wedges wouldn’t hurt either.
Chard braised with garlic and black pepper
Swiss chard is a very underrated winter green. When slow cooked like this, it has a nice richness that complements the pork belly beautifully.
400g Swiss or rainbow chard
75g of butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Preperation 5 minutes
to cook 50 minutes
Wash the chard well, then dry them. Separate the leaves from the stems, finely chop the stems at an angle and tear the leaves into pieces the size of your palm.
In a medium saucepan with a tight fitting lid, melt the butter over low heat, then add the chard stems and season with salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Grate the garlic very finely directly into the pan (I use a Microplane), cover and let sweat for about 20 minutes.
Lift the lid, stir in the chard leaves, cover again and cook for another 20 minutes, until very tender. At this point, if there is any moisture left in the pan, remove the lid and simmer until all the liquid has evaporated.
Taste the seasoning, adjust if necessary and serve hot. Personally, I love the spice of black pepper, so probably add more than most, but be sure to grind at least a little more at the end for a final fragrant hit (the pre-ground dust sold in jars leaves much to be desired).