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    Apple & chestnut-stuffed pork belly with apple sauce

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    Apple & chestnut-stuffed pork belly with apple sauce

    By Alex Head

    'Roast pork is an ideal choice during the cooler months; it’s full of flavour, easy to cook and works so well with autumnal ingredients, such as the chestnuts and bramley apples I’ve used here for the stuffing and sauce. And, of course, you can’t beat that crispy crackling…'

    • Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus overnight chilling and resting
    • Cooking time: 2 hours 55 minutes
    • Total time: 3 hours 25 minutes, plus overnight chilling and resting

    Serves: 4 (with leftovers)

    Ingredients

    1-1.5kg pork belly, skin on
    1 tbsp sea salt flakes
    2 tbsp olive oil

    Apple sauce
    350g bramley apples, peeled and finely sliced (reserve the peelings)
    ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    11/2 tbsp clear honey
    11/2 tbsp lemon juice

    Stuffing
    2 tbsp fennel seeds
    3 garlic cloves
    100g bramley apples, roughly chopped
    ½ shallot, roughly chopped
    100g cooked chestnuts
    ½ x 20g pack sage, leaves picked
    1 tbsp thyme leaves (from about 7 sprigs)
    ½ tbsp sea salt
    2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    2 tbsp toasted pine nuts 

    Method

    1. Start by making the apple sauce. Put the apple slices in a heavy-based saucepan with the nutmeg and 80ml water. Cook over a low heat until soft (10-15 minutes), adding more water if needed. Stir in the honey and a pinch of sea salt. Mix through the lemon juice, cover and set aside in the fridge.

    2. For the stuffing, toast the fennel seeds in a dry frying pan for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant, then crush using a pestle and mortar. Transfer to a blender and add the garlic cloves, chopped apple, shallot, reserved apple peelings, chestnuts, sage, thyme, salt and olive oil. Pulse to make a rough paste, then stir through the pine nuts.

    3. Score the pork skin with a sharp knife and rub with the salt and olive oil. Turn the pork over and lay it skin-side down. Put 200g stuffing in a bowl and spread the remainder over the pork (do not spread the stuffing right up to the edges, as it will naturally spread out when you roll the pork up). Roll up the pork and use butcher’s string to tie it together. Take any stuffing that spills out and add it to the bowl with the other stuffing, then cover loosely and chill. Put the pork in a roasting tin, seam-side down, cover loosely and chill in the fridge, ideally overnight, or for a minimum of 4 hours.

    4. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200˚C, gas mark 6, and roast the pork for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 180˚C, gas mark 4, and roast for a further 1 hour 15 minutes. Finally, turn the oven back up to 200˚C, gas mark 6, and roast for 30 minutes, until the skin is crisp. Carefully transfer the cooked pork to a board and allow to rest, loosely covered with foil, for at least 30 minutes. 

    5. Meanwhile, turn the oven down to 180˚C, gas mark 4. Roll the remaining stuffing into 6-8 ping-pong-sized balls and put on a parchment-lined baking tray. Cook the stuffing balls for 20-25 minutes (alongside the vegetable dishes overleaf), until golden. Carve the joint with the crackling, then serve with the stuffing balls, apple sauce and vegetables.

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