Is this self-catering?

Generally when we go on holiday we go self-catering, mainly as it gives us the option to eat when and where we want to. The problem with self-catering is that you don’t always get a decent kitchen and nearly always the equipment leaves a lot to be desired. I want to cook a nice meal, what usually happens is that I get so frustrated with the lack of space, lack of decent pans, blunt knives and rubbish cookers that I get all annoyed.

On a recent holiday after struggling to cook a simple pasta dish in the kitchen in our self-catering accommodation I was so fed up that when I was in the local Sainsburys I decided to purchase a processed meal and heat it up in the oven. To be honest I was quite surprised by how nice it was. Yes if you got all the ingredients yourself and cooked from fresh, yes it would be much nicer, but in the assumption that you have useless cooking facilities, this was certainly much easier.

We had the Roasted Pork Belly with slow cooked roast potatoes and red onions, served with a tangy apple and cider sauce.

If you are regular reader of this blog, then you will know I have a fondness for pork belly so as a result I know what it can be like and what it should be like. The dish is quite simple to “cook” place in a pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes. No slicing, no dicing and no preparation.

So what was it like?

It was rather quite nice. The combination of pork belly and potatoes worked well, the pork was quite tender and tasty, though I could tell it had been cooked and then heated up. It could have done with some more onions, whilst the potatoes were a little too salty for my tastes. The cider sauce was really nice, this did need to be heated up separately, but easily done in the provided microwave. Both myself and my wife enjoyed eating it and she said it was the best meal we had on that holiday, though to be honest it didn’t have a lot of competition!

A little secret, we had it again a few weeks later when we were back home, and then I did have some decent cooking facilities…

Pork Belly

You don’t always have to use expensive cuts of meat to make a wonderful meal, sometimes the cheapest cuts cooked really slowly can have fantastic flavour and texture.

Turn on your oven to its highest temperature.

Place the pork belly in a roasting oven, season, and roast on the high temperature for about ten minutes, then turn the oven down to about 160℃ and cook for at least another hour depending on size and thickness. Cooking for longer results in a more tender piece of pork. However what I have been doing recently is cutting the belly into squares and coating in a spicy marinade before finshing off in the oven for another 15-20 minutes.

Spiced Pork Belly

Usually I like to cook pork belly for a long slow time in the oven.

I also use a faster technique with squares or cubes of pork belly. It was a variation of this technique that I used to cook a oriential inspired spiced pork belly.

The key factor for me was time, I would like have marinated the pork, but didn’t have the time. So I took the slab of pork belly and cut it into squares about two inches.

These I then placed in a hot oven and roasted for about twenty minutes.

Meanwhile I created a sauce for the pork, mine consisted of a splash of sunflower oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup (though you could use honey) black pepper, spices and I also added a Knorr stock pot.

I took the pork out of the oven and tossed it in the sauce before spooning the reminder over the pork.

The pork was then placed back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes.

Removing the pork from the oven, I cut each “square” into three slices and served with stir fried vegetables and noodles.

Roast Pork Belly

I really do like a nice piece of pork belly, especially when roasted in the oven.

I use to be only be able to buy pork belly in slices, but more recently it has become much easier to buy pork belly in one piece. This makes it much easier to roast whole in the oven, not that it isn’t nice to roast small cubes of pork belly.

I use kitchen towel to dry the pork belly before cooking. Then when cooking, to start in a very hot oven (to ensure you get nice crispy crackling) before turning down to a much lower temperature , say 160℃ for a couple of hours. This way you get a wonderfully crisp crackling, tender moist meat and great flavour.

Now in terms of flavour, I do much prefer using “proper” pork as opposed to the mass produced stuff you can buy.  The pork pictured was “outdoor reared” and tasted really good.

Roasted Pork Belly

The traditional way of cooking pork belly is to slow roast it in the oven for a couple of hours.

I placed the belly pork on the root vegetables and seasoned it. I then placed this in the really hot oven, turning the temperature right down to 160. I then left the pork to roast for about two hours. This may not seem long, but it wasn’t a huge piece of pork like a leg joint.

Sometimes though you don’t have the time…

Another method I use is to score the skin on the belly and then cut the pork belly into one inch cubes (3cm). Place the cubes of pork on a roasting tray, and cook for about 30-40 minutes in a hot oven. Ensure that the pork belly is really dry before putting it in the oven. I seasoned mine with black pepper. You don’t need to add salt, but it does help to remove some of the moisture.

The end result is tender pieces of tasty pork with a crispy crackling.

I served mine with salad and crusty bread.