TGIFOOD

A CRACKLING GOOD QUEST 0.5

What’s cooking today: Pork belly in nagmaalwyn

What’s cooking today: Pork belly in nagmaalwyn
Tony Jackman’s pork belly cooked in nagmaalwyn, served on a platter by Mervyn Gers. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Somewhat irreverent, this latest version of our series in the quest for perfect pork crackling is first cooked in stock, nagmaalwyn and spices including black cumin (nigella) seeds, then gets a blast of heat to crisp up the skin.

Nagmaalwyn and black seeds with a hint of hellfire chilli. Sounds quite wicked.

I used to cook with nagmaalwyn in our Sutherland restaurant, Perlman House, circa 2006-8; a dessert of pears poached in the communion wine of the NG Kerk, in-spire-d (sorry) by the old church diagonally across the road, where there is graffiti in the clock tower, scrawled by British soldiers in the 1899-1902 war.

The restaurant was in an 1860s house with a cool afdakkie, with a row of nagmaalhuise attached to it on one side, as if the house were a train engine and the little houses its coaches. 

Pears poached in Nagmaalwyn (look for it with the fortified wines at most bottle stores), scrawled on the blackboard menu, often got a bit of a giggle from the tannies, who felt a bit naughty ordering it. No one ever complained.

Now I’ve used nagmaalwyn to bless a pork dish, which is possibly even naughtier than poaching pears in it. Forgive me.

Ingredients

1 slab of pork belly, whatever size you need

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp nigella seeds

1 tsp ground allspice

1 Tbsp picked thyme leaves

1 tsp salt

½ tsp chilli powder

½ tsp white pepper

3 large carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise

2 turnips, peeled and sliced thickly in halves or quarters

1 red onion, in thick slices

500 ml vegetable stock

250 ml nagmaalwyn

Salt and pepper to taste, if needed

1 heaped tsp cornflour dissolved in 2 Tbsp water.

Method

Trim excess fat from the bottom of the belly if necessary (no, not the skin side).

Score the rind in a small diamond pattern but don’t cut through to the flesh.

Mix together the dry ingredients and rub into the meat and skin.

Cure the belly in the spice rub for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 160℃.

Oil a suitable deep oven dish. Place at the bottom the carrots, turnips and onion slices.

Place the belly on top of the vegetables.

Mix the stock and nagmaalwyn together and pour it around the belly, but not over the skin.

Cover the top with double foil.

Roast slowly at 160℃ for 4 to 4½ hours.

Take the dish out of the oven and turn the heat up as high as it will go (I went to 270). Pour off the liquid into a saucepan.

Pat the skin dry with paper towel, season with coarse salt and brush with olive oil.

Return it to the oven and blast it for 30 minutes to crisp the skin.

Reduce the sauce by half on a high heat, then thicken with cornflour dissolved in water.

Here’s the joy of having scored the skin in a small diamond pattern: it means you can break up bits of crackling to serve with each portion; much neater and easier on the teeth than crunching through big chunks of it, and it makes a rather nice garnish too.

As well as the vegetables cooked with the belly, I served broccoli on the side, blanched and then tossed in olive oil and seasoning before serving. DM/TGIFood

Tony Jackman is the Galliova Food Writer of the Year 2021. His book, foodSTUFF, is now available in the DM Shop. Buy it here.

SUBSCRIBE: There’s much more from Tony Jackman and his food writing colleagues in his weekly TGIFood newsletter, delivered to your inbox every Saturday. Subscribe here. Also visit the TGIFood platform, a repository of all of our food writing.

Mervyn Gers Ceramics supplies dinnerware for the styling of some TGIFood shoots. For more information, click here.

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