This really is one of the simplest recipes, and it’s a belter - particularly if you want to sup wine with any guests you might have hanging around, rather than slave in the kitchen missing all the banter.
It’s also an excellent choice if you fancy just bunging it in the oven, while you nip off to the gym or something, without worrying about the house burning down in your absence.
It uses three of the things that go best with pork - sage, onion and cider. Indeed, while we’re on the subject of sage, it’s also probably quite a restorative dish if the Romans and others were right. According to an old English custom, eating sage every day in May will grant long life, immortality even (but who wants that), hence the proverb: “Why should a man die who has sage in his garden?”
The sweetness of the onions is cut by the cider, which you add towards the end, to make an amber liquor smacking of sage and black pepper. When I made it last night, I bunged a couple of potatoes in the oven to bake while the pork was slowly cooking. Then I served it with finely sliced carrots, broad beans and peas.
You could thicken the sauce by making a roux with butter and flour and then stirring the pork liquor in, but sometimes life’s too short for that sort of thing, and besides the spuds are good for soaking up the juice.
PORK BELLY PARCEL WITH SAGE
1 small rolled pork belly joint, about 750g
2 small onions, sliced
20 sage leaves
Salt and pepper
200ml dry cider
Take a large piece of foil - about enough to cover two chopping boards. Lay the sliced onions in the centre, to form a bed big enough to rest the pork on. Tear up the sage leaves and scatter over the onions.
Sprinkle the pork joint liberally with salt and then nestle on top of the onions and sage. Season with black pepper - a good few grinds of the pepper mill. Then tuck the foil sides inwards and fold up into a parcel. Put in an oven tray, and into a pre-heated, low oven - about gas mark 4 or 160C.
After an hour and a half, take the pork out and crank up the oven to maximum heat. Open the foil, to form a bowl shape that will keep the juices in, and pour the cider over the pork. Season with more salt and pepper, and put back in the oven for another 20 to 30 minutes until the crackling is golden.
Take out of the oven and rest for 20 minutes before cutting into thick slices and devouring.