Pork belly is a joy to eat but still an underrated cut of meat in Britain. You can slice it about 1/2 inch thick and grill it until crisp with good results. But for this recipe, slow-cooking for 3 to 4 hours is a must. By slow-cooking the fennel, you get an incredible sweetness. It works so well with pork and both are great served with mash potatoes, polenta or lentils—lovely.
Servings: Serves 6—8
  • 4 1/2 pounds pork belly , on the bone, preferably free-range or organic
  • 2 Tbsp. fennel seeds
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 bulbs fennel , each cut into sixths, herby tops removed and reserved
  • 1 bunch small fresh thyme , leaves picked
  • 5 cloves garlic , unpeeled
  • olive oil
  • Salsa Verde (optional)
    • 1 clove garlic , peeled
    • Handful capers , drained
    • Handful gherkins , drained and finely chopped
    • 6 good-quality anchovy fillets in oil, finely chopped
    • 2 bunches fresh flat-leaf parsley , finely chopped
    • 1 bunch fresh basil , leaves picked and finely chopped
    • 1 bunch fresh mint , leaves picked and finely chopped
    • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
    • Red wine vinegar
    • Good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
    • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Preheat your oven to its maximum temperature. Get yourself a sharp knife, or even a clean Stanley knife, and score the skin of the pork belly.

    In a pestle and mortar or a Flavor Shaker, bash up the fennel seeds with a tablespoon of salt until you have a powder, then massage it into the scores of the skin. In a roasting pan, toss the fresh fennel with the thyme, garlic, a good splash of oil and some salt and pepper. Place the pork belly on top and put into the preheated oven. After 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 325° and roast the pork for one additional hour. By jolting the temperature right up at the beginning and then turning it down, you will start the crackling off nicely; the meat can then continue to cook slowly.

    If you’d like to serve your pork with a lovely salsa verde, make it now and set aside.

    To make salsa verde:
    Finely chop the garlic and put in a bowl. Add the capers, gherkins, anchovies, parsley, basil and mint. Mix in the mustard and 1 or 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, then 3 good lugs of olive oil, adding more if needed to make a loose mixture. Balance the flavors with pepper and, if necessary, salt and a little more red wine vinegar.

    When the hour is up, take the tray out of the oven, pour away any excess fat, add the white wine and pop back in the oven for another hour. Now remove the fennel and keep warm while you put the pork back in for a final hour until the skin is golden and crisp and the meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender. If the wine starts to evaporate during this time, add a splash more, or a touch of water, to loosen and make a light gravy.

    Allow the pork to rest for 10 minutes and you’ll have a beautiful ready-made gravy and lovely sweet, soft fennel. Carve the meat into large chunks and serve with the gravy, salsa verde (if using) and the reserved fennel tops sprinkled on top.

    This recipe is taken from Cook with Jamie by Jamie Oliver (Hyperion). © Jamie Oliver, 2007