Chef Cyrus Todiwala is a master of Indian fusion cuisine. Using only 10 choice spices from India’s vast bounty of spices, he’s created a vibrant new recipe collection for home cooks featuring classic and modern spins on favorite South Asian dishes.
At one time belly of pork was considered “cheap and cheerful,” but of late it has become rather fashionable and more expensive. I particularly like it when it comes from free-range and rare breeds of pork — so much more flavorsome than intensively farmed meat. With this recipe, you need to start the brining process a day before you want to cook the meat. Patient preparation and slow cooking are key factors.
- 2 1/4 pounds unscored pork belly, cut into 3-inch squares
- 1 tablespoon (each) butter and extra-virgin canola oil
- 1 heaped tablespoon cumin seeds
- 5 1/2 ounces raw cashew nuts or 50/50 almonds and pine nuts
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 pound fresh spinach
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the brine
- 1 quart apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups jaggery 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup coarse sea salt
- 2 3-inch pieces cinnamon stick
- 5 to 6 large, broken in half dried red chilies
- Juice from 1 lime
For the herbed jus
- 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups good chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro stems
- 1 tablespoon chopped curry leaves, preferably fresh; if using dried, soak in water for 10 to 12 minutes and dry thoroughly before chopping
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger root
- 1 finely chopped fresh green chile
- 3 to 4 lightly crushed cloves
For the pork belly
Place all the brine ingredients in a stainless steel saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, switch off the heat, and set aside to cool.
Place the pork pieces in a large plastic container and add the brining liquid. Seal securely and refrigerate for at least 12 to 15 hours, turning the meat over occasionally.
Combine all the jus ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Then simmer for about 4 to 5 minutes, wiping down the sides of the pan with a wet brush from time to time, until the liquid has reduced by two-thirds. Strain and check the seasoning, adding salt if needed. (If you wish, pepper can be added just before serving.) The jus can be used immediately, or covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Drain the pork well. Place a Dutch oven over low heat. Add the pork pieces in a single layer, skin-side down (you might need to work in batches), and slowly increase the heat until the skin side only is well browned. Set the meat aside on a plate, draining the fat into a skillet.
Return all the meat to the Dutch oven and pour in the chilled jus. Bring to a boil, then place on the middle rack of the oven, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 250ºF, cover with a lid, and cook for 3 to 4 hours, until done to your liking. It should be virtually falling apart to the touch.
Heat the pork fat reserved in the skillet. (If you didn’t get much, heat the optional butter and oil.) Add the cumin seeds, nuts, and garlic, and stir over low heat until all change color. As soon as that happens, add the spinach, tossing until it has wilted.
Serve the pork with the reheated jus and vegetables, and whatever else you fancy eating it with.