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What’s cooking today: A Crackling Good Quest, 4.0 –...



What’s cooking today: A Crackling Good Quest, 4.0 – the soy, orange and rosemary edition

Tony Jackman’s pork belly roasted with soy, orange and fresh rosemary. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Before the orange season disappears into the wings for another year, grab a couple of them and use them as a key aromatic for a pork belly roast, along with soy and rosemary. Yep, we’re after that perfect crackling again.

I like melding unexpected flavour companions, but only if I think they will work; I distrust the habit of marrying ingredients just to be daring or for the sake of it. A good combination of aromatics needs to be imagined on the palate before you even start, and if you have the knack for it you’ll feel pretty confident as to whether it will work or not. I don’t attempt a dish if I’m not salivating at the idea of that particular combination of flavours. Which brings us to orange, soy and rosemary. Perhaps not the most obvious of marriages, but it works beautifully. In a rich sort of way.

So here we are with another slab of pork belly with that lovely cap of fat and rind. And I’m looking at the large bottle of Kikkoman soy sauce I bought recently (1.5 litres!). I’ve used soy and rosemary together before, with pleasing results, and my rosemary is looking good right now: it senses that spring is near. And orange and soy work well, as do orange and rosemary. So I decided to use all three for a recent pork belly roast. Very happily.


1 pork belly roast of your chosen size, rind scored

2 or 3 Tbsp fine salt and 1 or 2 Tbsp baking powder for drying the rind before roasting

1 large onion, chopped

Cabbage, shredded, as much as you need

3 garlic cloves, chopped

Juice and finely grated zest of 2 oranges

200 ml vegetable stock

80 ml soy sauce

4 or 5 rosemary sprigs



Oil for the roasting dish


Preheat the oven to 240℃.

Clean the joint under cold running water, then pat it thoroughly dry with kitchen paper.

In a small bowl, mix together either 2 or 3 Tbsp of fine salt and 1 or 2 Tbsp of baking powder. (The quantities depend on how big your piece of pork belly is.)

Score the rind with a very sharp knife in a diamond pattern, or in strips if you prefer (I did strips), being careful not to pierce through the fat and into the meat.

Rub the salt and baking powder mixture into the rind and into the gaps between, where you have cut. Leave it in the fridge for a few hours.

Chop 1 large onion and 3 garlic cloves. Shred the quantity of cabbage you need (you know how many you’re feeding, just use enough). Put it all in a large bowl and add salt and black pepper to taste, then mix the cabbage and onion/garlic together and put it all into the centre of an oiled roasting dish.

Zest 2 oranges and put the zest into a bowl along with all their juice. Add to it the soy sauce and rosemary sprigs. Add the vegetable stock. Pour this over the cabbage and onions.

Now salt the rind again and place it on top of the cabbage and onions. It’s time for it to go into the preheated oven.

As for the cooking times, we’re revisiting our Crackling Good Quest series. This time, there were three stages of the roasting: the first 20 minutes at 240℃, followed by 2 full hours of cooking at 170℃. Then, I turned the heat back up to 240℃ for the final 20 to 30 minutes of cooking. Again, as I always say, ovens are different, so the final stage needs you to keep a watchful eye. Open the door, pull the rack out a bit and tap the rind to see if it’s as perfectly crackly as you’d hope it to be. Back in for a while more if not, or turn off the oven and let it rest with the door open if it’s ready.

The sauce is rich, and with a good portion of pork belly per serving the cabbage is likely to be all you need. Otherwise, mashed potato would be good. Mustard on the side would not do any harm. DM/TGIFood 

To enquire about Tony Jackman’s book, foodSTUFF (Human & Rousseau) please email him at [email protected] 

SUBSCRIBE: Our Thank God It’s Food newsletter is sent to subscribers every Friday at 6pm, and published on the TGIFood platform on Daily Maverick. It’s all about great reads on the themes of food and life. Subscribe here.


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