Ottolenghi’s Roast pork belly with spiced plum, ginger & rhubarb relish

Being a visual learner (and having a memory like a sieve), I find many cookbooks and recipes confusing to follow because there are all words stumbling over each other, and then if you are lucky, a photo of the beautiful end result. Often times my attempts do not turn out anywhere as glorious, and I don’t know what went wrong. Then there are the real disasters; we don’t talk about those. I chronicle my cooking attempts using step-by-step photos as it helps me to remember what I did, and how it affected the outcome. My blog is my online google-able recipe journal.

I first heard about an amazing deli in Notting Hill when I visited London three years ago; I still kick myself for not searching it out. Luckily, all three cookbooks have been frequently called upon and Ottolenghi’s colourful and flavoursome recipes with a twist have garnered new fans of my dinner guests. These two recipes come from the eponymously named cookbook, and are great for a dinner party.

This summer has been a bumper season for plums; friends and neighbours have shared their delicious bounty with me. This relish is a real winner, and if bottled, the summer tastes can go on for months. I make double the recipe which fills 3x 300mL jars.

Spiced red plum, ginger and rhubarb relish 
Prep and cooking time: 1 hour

240g plums, stoned and quartered
1 red chilli, seeded
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise
100mL red wine vinegar
200g caster sugar
200g rhubarb, cut into 3cm chunks
2cm ginger, finely julienned

If you are bottling this, sterilise the jars. There are several methods to this, but the one I have been using is boiling clean jars, then drying them in a hot oven.

Heat the oven to 150°C. Place plums, chilli, cinnamon sticks, star anise, red wine vinegar and 100g caster sugar in a heavy bottom pot and cook over medium heat for 30 mins. Remove chilli, cinnamon sticks and star anise.

Toss the rhubarb and ginger with the remaining caster sugar in a ceramic dish, and cook in the oven for 30 mins.

Mix together the two plum and rhubarb mixtures, and fill jars.

Roast pork belly
(modified from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook, feeds 8)
The original Ottolenghi recipe for pork belly takes 3 hours to cook, starting with 1 hr at 250°C, then at 170°C and the final hour at 110°C. I am not that organised, so my hack is to roast at 1 hour at 250°C, then 30 minutes at 170C. The pork is beautifully tender at this stage, and the crackling is formed.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1.5 hours

~2kg pork belly, bone-in, scored
1 bunch thyme
1 bunch rosemary
1 head garlic, crushed
100mL olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper
300mL white wine

Heat oven to 250°C. Blend herbs, garlic and olive oil. With the pork belly skin down, rub sea salt and black pepper onto the meat. Then pour over herb mix and rub in.

Turn it back over, wipe the skin dry. Then generously rub sea salt into the scores. Roast for 1 hour at 250°C, then add the wine and cook for a further 30 minutes at 170C. I always activate the smoke alarm with this recipe, so make sure there is good ventilation before you open the oven door. Cut into strips and serve with relish.

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