- Food & Drink
Pork crackling and peanut brittle
There are few things that aren’t improved by pork, even dessert. Last week I was going to a Bonfire Night party and had offered to bring pudding. Specifically, I’d offered to bring cake. But I’m unreliable and my imagination, once it has got hold of an idea, generally won’t let up until I’ve tried it.
A couple of weeks ago I was at a friend’s house and was flicking through her copy of Fat by Jennifer McLagan. It’s a magnificent read – you can’t fail to love a book with a chapter headed Pork Fat: The King – and one recipe in particular caught my eye: spiced pork crackling brittle.
Basically, it’s spiced pork crackling chopped up and stirred into caramelised sugar to make pig candy. Utter brilliance and the notion kept nagging at me, demanding I give it a go. So instead of baking a cake, I roasted a pork belly joint.
The recipe below adds peanuts into the mix, which stretches it out and means people have to guess what the mystery ingredient is. At a party, when conversation can run short, this counts as fun. The pork crackling should be chopped no bigger than your littlest fingernail – you want it to add a meaty something to the overall affect, not sit like glistening chunks of skin embedded in amber.
Rubbing chilli into the skin when it cooks adds a background note of warmth, but you could add another teaspoonful to the caramel when you add the peanuts, and if you don’t have smoked sea salt, just use ordinary coarse sea salt flakes at the end. The extra salt is essential, unless you’ve used half a tub on the skin before cooking. Try a bit of crackling before you add it to gauge just how salty the end result is going to be. If you think it needs more salt after it’s made and set, scatter a spoonful or 2 over the top just before serving and let the guessing games begin.
Pork crackling and peanut brittle
600g pork belly joint
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
400g caster sugar
250g plain roasted peanuts
2 tsp smoked sea salt
1 Preheat the oven to gas mark 10/250°C/fan oven 230°C (or as hot as your oven will go). Score the skin on the pork belly with a sharp knife, being careful not to cut through the flesh. Put the joint in a roasting tin, skin-side-down, and rub the olive oil and a pinch of salt into the flesh. Turn over and rub a good quantity of salt into the skin with the chilli flakes, pushing them deep into the groves.
2 Roast for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to gas mark 3/160°C/fan oven 140°C and roast for a further 11/2-2 hours, until the meat is very tender. Switch the oven to grill (or switch the pork joint to the grill) and grill until the crackling is crisp and browned. Set aside to cool.
3 Slice the cracking from the joint, trying to leave as much fat behind as possible. Set the meat aside (we’ll deal with the meat in another blog post). Scrape the underside of the brittle to remove as much fat as possible and brush the top to get rid of any burnt chilli flakes. Chop the crackling into fairly small chunks. Set aside.
4 Line a large baking tray with baking parchment or a silicone mat. Heat the sugar in a wide, heavy-based frying pan over a low heat, without stirring but shaking the pan occasionally to redistribute the sugar and the heat, until the sugar has melted. Increase the heat and when the sugar is a bubbling, rich chestnut colour quickly stir in the peanuts, salt and pork crackling. Remove from the heat and pour onto the baking parchment. Set aside to cool. It’ll only take a few minutes to set, but resist the urge to stick your fingers in too early – hot sugar sticks and burns.
5 Once the crackling has set, smash into pieces. Store wrapped in greaseproof paper in an airtight container. It will keep for 1–2 days but it’s best eaten on the day it’s made.