This is quite an undertaking planning-wise as the pork should ideally be left over night to marinate, so it would be good for an Easter celebration lunch. However, left for at least three hours should also give good results. You can also short-cut the mixing and roasting of the various spices by using a standard Chinese five spice blend but we’ve done the full home-made version here.
Pre-heat oven to 200°C
750g belly pork
5tsp sea salt
4tsp Szechuan peppercorns
3 star anise
1” cinnamon stick
1tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp cooking oil/veg oil
INGREDIENTS for the stir-fry
500g bag of beansprouts
a carrot – sliced into batons
a red or orange pepper – sliced into approx 1cm batons
a few florets of tender stem broccoli
a small handful of sugarsnap or mange tout peas
a small handful of baby corn
a few asparagus spears
a handful of oyster mushrooms
a red chilli – finely sliced
a large clove of garlic (or two!) – minced
hoi sin sauce
groundnut or vegetable oil
Pak choi – if using
The key is producing a tender and melting joint of meat with an intense and crunchy crackling – to this latter end, score the skin lightly (don’t go down to the flesh) with a Stanley knife unless you happen to have a particularly sharp carving knife. I keep a variety of weapons to hand as sometimes Brenda can be quite tense and occasionally needs fending off by force.
Next, boil the kettle and with the meat rind-side-up on a rack suspended over the sink, pour on the hot water. Leave to drain a moment and then pat dry.
Meanwhile, heat a small frying pan (you can use a wok but it’s probably over-large for this) over a medium heat and add the Szechuan peppercorns and the piece of cinnamon. Move these around regularly for one minute then add the star anise. Continue stirring to keep everything roasting evenly and after 30 seconds more, add the fennel seeds and cloves. Dry fry for another minute by which time all the ingredients should be turning one or two shades darker, the fennel and pepper may be beginning to crackle a little bit and just a haze of light smoke beginning to rise. Take off the heat immediately and continue moving around. The spices should be toasted and not burnt.
In a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind these altogether along with the salt, then mix in the sugar.
Lightly oil the meat all over and then massage in the salt/spice mix – but particularly into the skin (rind). Leave in a cool, well ventilated area, lightly covered, at least a few hours but better overnight.
When it comes to roasting, start at 200°C. While the oven is heating up, pour away any liquid which has accumulated around the pork (which is mainly excess moisture and salt) and put the pork on a wire rack placed over a roasting tray with a few cm boiling water poured in the bottom. The water level should not be touching the pork joint. Roast like this for 15 mins then turn down to 140°C for a further two hours. For the final 15-20 mins, raise the temperature again to 220°C to give a final fierce burst of heat to ensure that crunchy crackling! Take out and rest in a warm place for a 20 mins
Meanwhile, you can get to work on your stir fry which, apart from a little chopping and prep work, is made in minutes – here’s how
METHOD for the stir-fry
The idea is to get your veg into pieces approximately the same size. Clearly, matching broccoli florets with batons of carrot is not going to be an exact science, but the lovely pictures we helpfully provide, should help. As a further hint, I just broke down the broccoli into fairly small individual florets, split the baby corn once lengthways, cut the mushrooms once or twice and split the carrots lengthways into either four or six and the peppers into slices approx half to 1cm width.. Sugarsnap peas I left whole.
If you also want to serve some pak choi, this can either be separated into its individual leaves, left whole or cut in halves or quarters lengthways. Just lightly steam just before starting the stir fry.
Get the wok nice and hot and follow with a couple of tablespoons (about 30ml) oil. When starting to smoke, throw in the minced garlic and stir fry for ten seconds or so – don’t burn it which will happen very quickly – then add in the veg and toss and coat quickly and continue to stir fry for about 1-2 mins.
Add the beansprouts and stir through, mingling and coating with the other veg for about 30 seconds and then add a few tbsp soy and the same of oyster and hoi sin sauces. Stir/toss a final time and switch off.
Just before serving, drizzle a few tsp of sesame oil, ditto on the steamed pak choi if using.