Seasons’ Eatings: Crispy Five-Spice Pork Belly and Braised Pork Shoulder
By Allison Goodings
London, UK – Oh what an exciting few weeks we’ve had in Britain! The celebration of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the throne has been filled with such a variety of celebrations, including river parades, a star-studded concert in front of Buckingham Palace, street parties, BBQs and flags everywhere! And if there’s one thing that this celebration of all things British has encouraged me to do, it was to seek out some new and different ways to cook with British ingredients.
Pork is definitely an important ingredient in celebratory British cooking, whether you’re enjoying bangers & mash with a pint at the pub, pork pies at a picnic with friends on a sunny afternoon, or a delicious pork roast with crispy crackling for dinner on a Sunday with family. With plans to have friends over for a post-Jubilee dinner, I decided that pork was a must for our menu. I have also been indulging in new-season asparagus over these past few weeks, and thought that it would be a good match for our pork. Looking at Karleen’s Spring Fruit Spring Rolls, as well as other RecipeRelay contributions over the past few weeks with their Asian inspirations, I decided to go with a pork-based menu and use the orange as my relay ingredient along with continuing the Asian theme.
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Pork belly is a new ingredient to me, and is quickly becoming a favourite in our house because it is affordable AND delicious. While I enjoy the crispy crackling of roast pork belly, I do find it to be a particularly rich cut of pork and so decided to create a second pork dish that was perhaps a bit meatier and less fatty to accompany the belly. Shoulder is another affordable cut of pork that is full of flavour and cooks easily in a slow braise until it is incredibly tender and meltingly delicious. To me, a piece of crispy five-spice pork belly coupled with some oniony gingery pork shoulder is a match made in heaven.
Like many other asparagus addicts I know, I eagerly await the arrival of these locally-grown green spears each spring and thoroughly indulge in them until their short season is over. I decided to serve the two pork dishes with a chilli and orange asparagus side that would complement the Asian flavours in the meat but still allow the asparagus to shine through. A quick trip to our local butcher and local greengrocer, and we were ready to cook.
The result was dinner party success! The two pork recipes require very little preparation, and cook quite happily and easily together for a few hours while you sit and enjoy aperitifs and canapés with your friends. The asparagus is blanched in advance and only needs a couple of minutes on the stove top to reheat as you’re just about to serve. And if you think you’ll need it, some steamed basmati rice fills out the meal quite well. Everything you need for a fabulous Saturday night dinner with friends – we hope the Queen would approve!
Crispy Five-Spice Pork Belly and Braised Pork Shoulder with Asparagus with Chilli and Orange
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours
Yield: 4 servings
For the Braised Pork Shoulder with Green Onions and Ginger
- 1 lb (450g) pork shoulder, boneless and skin removed, left whole
- ¾ cup Shaosing rice wine or dry sherry
- 6 spring onions, 4 fat and 2 thin
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3 Tablespoons grated ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock (from a cube is fine)
- ¼ cup soy sauce
For the Crispy Five-Spice Pork Belly
- 1.6 lb (750g) boneless pork belly, skin scored (ask butcher to do this)
- 2 Tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder
- 1 Tablespoons sea salt
For the Asparagus with Chilli and Orange
- 1 lb asparagus
- 1 orange, zested in wide strips, and juiced
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- ½ red chilli, finely chopped
- Coarse salt
- In an oven-proof casserole dish, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add pork shoulder and cook for a few minutes on each side until meat is browned. Remove meat and let rest on a plate.
- Deglaze pan with rice wine and use wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the casserole. After a few minutes, add grated ginger and minced garlic and return pork to the pan.
- Take 4 fat spring onions, trim the ends, and add whole to the casserole, along with chilli flakes, soy sauce and stock. Bring to a simmer, cover, and put in a 375 F preheated oven for 2 hours. Check after 1 hour and add more stock or water if liquid level goes below one inch.
- Meanwhile, combine five-spice and salt in a small bowl and then rub into the skin and flesh of the pork. Put the pork in a roasting tin, skin-side up. After pork shoulder has cooked for one hour, put the pork belly into the oven. Cook for 1.5 hours.
- Using a vegetable peeler, remove the rind from the orange and leave in large strips. Finely mince the chilli. In a wok or large frying pan, heat vegetable oil over medium heat and add orange and chilli. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until orange zest and chilli become fragrant. Turn off heat, and leave wok with orange-chilli oil until closer to serving. Juice the orange and reserve juice for later use.
- Wash asparagus and snap off the tough bottoms of the stalks. Cut asparagus in half, or 2-3 inch pieces if you prefer. Blanch asparagus in boiling salted water for 3 minutes, then drain and plunge into cold (iced) water to stop the cooking process. Put aside until meat is resting.
- After pork shoulder has cooked for 2 hours, add 2 chopped green onions, and put back into the over for another 15-20 minutes, adding more liquid (stock or water is fine) if necessary. You want some liquid remaining after cooking to use as a sauce for the meat. Remove pork shoulder from oven and leave covered until ready to serve.
- If extra crispy crackling is what you like, now is the time to turn the oven up to 400F (while the pork shoulder is resting), and give the belly an additional 15-20 minutes in the hotter oven. Remove from oven and allow pork belly to rest for about 10 minutes or so before carving.
- While meat is resting, heat wok with reserved oil over medium heat and add blanched asparagus. Toss over medium heat until asparagus is warmed through and coated in oil. Add 3 tbsp of orange juice to the wok and continue to toss asparagus until coated and sauce reduced, about 4 minutes.
- Carve pork belly into four pieces. Using two forks, shred the pork shoulder into pieces, removing any large bits of fat or sinew that might be remaining. Serve a piece of pork belly with braised pork shoulder, making sure to top the shredded meat with some of the pan juices and bits of spring onion and ginger, and the asparagus on the side. A bit of steamed rice to sop up all the lovely juices wouldn’t go amiss! Enjoy!
Allison Goodings lives in London, England, and is the recipe writer for the Archer, a local community newspaper in East Finchley. She also writes a blog called Ode to an Artichoke featuring simple recipes and random musings on all things delicious. When not feeding her friends and family, planning what to cook for her next meal, selling cheese at a local market or daydreaming about asparagus, she works for the Canadian High Commission.