Pork belly, roasted plum sauce

Pork belly, roasted plum sauce

Finding Fire

Good pork belly is all about the crackling, and the satisfying sound it makes as it shatters like glass, giving way to the rich succulence that lies beneath. The fire provides the ideal dry heat for the perfect crackling, while the belly cooks slowly until smoky and tender. The alchemy of pairing meat with fruit goes back to medieval times and still resonates today, here with the tart ripeness of roasted plums served with pork.


Quantity Ingredient
1kg free-range pork belly, on the bone
500ml filtered water
2 star anise
1/2 teaspoon sichuan peppercorns
zest of 1 orange
1 lemongrass stem, smashed and chopped
10g sea salt
8 small blood plums or other variety of plums
1 egg white
30g caster (superfine) sugar

For the plum sauce (see Note)

Quantity Ingredient
500g whole plums
200ml red-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 star anise
1/2 teaspoon sichuan peppercorns
zest and juice of 1/2 orange
25g ginger, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
25ml dark soy sauce
60g soft brown sugar


  1. 1. Prepare your embers and place a grill cooling rack 15 cm (6 in) above the embers.
  2. 2. Prepare the plum sauce. Wash, halve and stone the plums. Grill, cut side down, over intense embers until caramelised. Transfer to a cast-iron pan, add the vinegar, chilli flakes, star anise, sichuan peppercorns, orange zest and juice, ginger and garlic. Bring to the boil then simmer gently, stirring occasionally until the plums are soft.
  3. 3. Pass through a large fine-mesh sieve. Return the mixture to the pan, add the soy sauce and the sugar and simmer, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes, taking care the mixture doesn’t burn. It should be dark and glossy and taste sour, sweet, salty and fruity.
  4. 4. Place the pork belly on a grill cooling rack over a sink. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to the boil and carefully pour over it the pork belly to scald the skin – this will help to dry it out when cooking. Drain, pat dry and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Remove from the refrigerator and, with a sharp knife, score the skin evenly, with 1 cm (½ in) between each score, being careful not to cut into the flesh.
  5. 5. In a mortar and pestle, grind the star anise, sichuan peppercorns, orange zest, lemongrass stem and salt. Rub the mixture well into the underside of the pork belly (not the skin). Leave for 1 hour at room temperature.
  6. 6. Ignite a fire in your wood-fired oven. Leave to burn until the fire dies down, resulting in gentle embers. You are aiming to bring the oven to a temperature of 180°C (355°F).
  7. 7. Put the pork belly, skin side up, on a grill cooling rack to allow air to circulate around it. Sit the rack on a baking tray to capture fat and juices from the meat as it cooks. Slow roast the pork belly for 2 hours, rotating the pan after 1 hour to ensure even cooking.
  8. 8. Meanwhile, prepare the plums. Carefully remove the stones from the plums, coat the plums in the egg white, then roll in the caster sugar. Slow roast in a wood-fired oven at approximately 180°C (355°F) or in a cast-iron pan over the fire for 20 minutes until soft and caramelised with a crisp shell. Remove and allow to rest for 10 minutes, during which time the fruit will exude its rich ruby juices.
  9. 9. Remove the pork from the oven. Burn additional wood to raise the temperature of the oven to around 220°C (430°F), then roast the belly for a further 30 minutes until the skin is crisp and the meat is cooked through.
  10. 10. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes prior to carving.
  11. 11. Serve the pork belly with the roasted plums and roasted plum sauce.


  • The plum sauce will keep for up to 1 month in an airtight container in the refrigerator, so can be made in advance.
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