Roasted pork belly with sweet potato mash

Roasted pork belly with sweet potato mash

Barriga de porco com batata doce

By
From
Lisbon
Serves
4 with leftovers
Photographer
Steven Joyce

This is based on a dish chef Henrique Sá Pessoa serves at his outpost in the Mercado do Ribeira, which is both a food market and a hub where local chefs serve small versions of their most famous dishes from little hatches around the edges of the building. Diners eat at long refectory tables, and it’s a chance for visitors to sample lots of classic Portuguese dishes in one go (although I prefer visiting the individual restaurants themselves for a less deafening and frenetic experience).

Henrique gave me hours of his time, kindly and patiently sharing his knowledge of Portuguese food. He also served me a wonderful pork belly dish which he’ d cooked sous-vide before roasting. This is inspired by it; for the real deal you should visit his restaurant, Alma.

Pork, especially fatty belly, is used a lot in Portugal, although it is often stewed rather than roasted. If you like heat, rub a teaspoon or so of ground piri piri chillies all over the meat and fat, or slather the meat with a couple of tablespoons of Piri Piri Sauce, before cooking.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 piece boneless pork belly, skin on
fine sea salt
1 heaped tablespoon lard, at room temperature
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 230°C. If you have a separate grill (broiler), preheat this, too.
  2. Score the skin of the pork belly in long, diagonal lines 1.5 cm apart with a sharp knife, going with the grain of the meat and being sure not to cut into the meat itself. Thoroughly dry the fat with sheets of paper towel, then rub a generous pinch of salt into the incisions.
  3. Mix together the lard, garlic and pepper, with another pinch of salt, then massage it into the meat side of the pork belly (not the skin).
  4. Place the meat in a roasting dish into which it fits snugly and pop it under the grill for 5–10 minutes, just to get the crackling started.
  5. Remove from the grill and place in the oven to roast for 30 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 130ºC. Cook for about 3 hours, or until the outside of the meat is a deep brown. (Don’t baste the crackling.)
  6. After this time, if the crackling hasn’t crackled, slice it from the meat. Turn the oven up to 200ºC and return the crackling to the oven on a baking tray to cook until crunchy, but watch it like a hawk, as the fat can burn very quickly.
  7. Serve the tender meat and the crunchy crackling with the sweet potato mash (below), and perhaps some wilted greens. If you’re cooking in the summertime, this is lovely with a tomato salad and some corn bread.

For the sweet potato mash

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
500g floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
500g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons butter
pinch salt
whole milk, as necessary

Method

  1. Cook the potatoes and sweet potatoes separately in boiling salted water. The potatoes will be done in under 15 minutes, but the sweet potatoes may need up to 25 minutes. (If the potatoes are ready well in advance of the sweet potatoes, mash them while you wait – white potatoes can become oddly gluey if not mashed soon after cooking.)
  2. When both are tender, drain, mash, then mix together. Add the butter and salt and mix. If the mash seems stiff, add a couple of tablespoons of milk, or more, until it is smooth and creamy. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve hot.
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