The bramble bush at the bottom of our garden is running rampant at the moment, its branches heavily laden with glossy, sweet blackberries. My husband picked so many the other weekend I was briefly at a loss for what to do with them all, until I remembered seeing Nigel Slater use them in a recipe for pork on his Dish of the Day TV show earlier this year. He uses pork shoulder, which I couldn’t get so I tweeted him to ask if it would work with pork belly and he replied (making my day!) to say he thought it would. It was amazing – meltingly tender, deeply aromatic – simply the best pork belly I have ever had. Using Slater’s recipe as a starting point, here’s my version:
1kg pork belly
500ml chicken stock
250ml red wine
Salt and pepper
Cooking time: The pork will take around 6 hours to cook, but prep time is minimal. You’ll need to preheat your oven to 180C (or gas mark 4)
Prep: Using a sharp knife, stab the pork all over – you want to ensure the blackberry juice penetrates the meat. Place the pork in a glass or pyrex dish (the fruit will probably stain anything plastic or ceramic bright purple), and add the berries, smushing them into the meat with your hands. Cover the dish with cling film and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours, but preferably over night.
Cook: season both sides of the pork liberally with salt and pepper, then transfer to a roasting dish, covering with the berries and the red wine. Place in the oven (middle shelf). After 20 minutes turn the heat down to 160C (gas 3). Check the pork at 30 minute (ish) intervals to baste with the ruby juices. Top up the liquid with around 100ml of water at around the 2 hour mark, and again if necessary during cooking – you don’t want the pork to dry out. After about 6 hours (a smaller piece of pork will take less time) remove from the oven, and wrap the meat in foil to rest (ideally for 30 minutes). Put the roasting dish on the hob on a medium heat and add the chicken stock to the pan juices, scraping any porky bits from the base. This is your sauce – keep it bubbling gently until it has reduced by about a third. Slater adds softened red onion and flour to make more of a proper gravy, but I was in the grip of a cruel hangover and completely forgot to do this and it was still delicious. He also grills the skin to get crispy crackling but, well, my hungover brain forgot about that too.
Serve: unwrap the pork (tipping any juices that have collected in the foil into the sauce), and slice into strips, pouring a little of the sauce over the meat. We ate this with creamed leeks and new potatoes roasted with garlic and rosemary, but it would also go well with any dark green veg like spinach or broccoli. It would be heavenly with mashed potatoes.
If you fancy something sweet instead I’ve got that covered, with this blackberry, lime and white chocolate buttermilk cake:
The recipe is this one from Smitten Kitchen (of my favourite food blogs – I am itching to make those peaches), tweaked a bit. It’s great as a dessert, served slightly warm with some double cream (ice cream would be lovely) and fresh berries on the side, but just as wonderful cold, accompanying a cup of tea.
1 cup (130g) plain flour
1/2 teaspoon (2g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2g) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
56g unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (146g) plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (22g) caster sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1 large (57g) egg
1/2 cup (118 ml) well-shaken buttermilk
100g white chocolate chips
1 cup (5 ounces or 140g) fresh blackberries
Prep: Preheat oven to 200C (gas mark 6). Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake tin with baking paper, then butter and flour the sides – I use kitchen roll to smear the butter round, then sprinkle some flour into the tin and swirl it round to distribute.
Make: Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and soda in one bowl. In a different bowl, beat the butter and 2/3 cup (146g) sugar with a hand mixer at medium-high speed until they’re combined (it looked a bit like sand when I did it, which concerned me briefly but turned out to be fine), then whisk in the vanilla and lime zest. Add the egg and beat well.
Reduce the mixer speed, and start to add the other ingredients in alternating stages like so: one tablespoon of the flour mixture; whisk; one tablespoon of buttermilk; whisk; one tablespoon of flour; whisk; buttermilk and so on until everything is combined. Add the white chocolate chips and stir. Tip the mixture into the cake tin, levelling the top with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Dot the blackberries on top of the mixture like so, then sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons (22g) sugar over the surface.
Bake on the middle shelf of the oven until the cake is golden (test by inserting a wooden skewer, it should come out clean) for 30 – 35 minutes*. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack.
*The original recipe suggests 20-25 minutes but I found that wasn’t quite long enough in my oven, but yours may well differ.