- 400-500g pork skin, preferably taken from loin of pork and bought un-scored as one piece or ‘sheet’ of skin
- 1½ tsp fennel seeds
A dried seed that comes from the fennel herb, fennel seeds look like cumin seeds, only greener,…
- ¼ tsp black peppercorns
- 1 star anise
Star anise is one of the central spices in Chinese cooking. It has a strong anise flavour, with…
- 1 tbsp sea salt flakes, plus extra for sprinkling over at the end
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- icing sugar (optional)
Preferably in a spice grinder (but if you don’t have one, in a pestle and mortar) grind 1 tsp of the fennel seeds with the peppercorns, star anise and salt as finely as you can then stir through the paprika and whole fennel seeds and set aside.
Using a craft knife (also known as a tiling knife or a Stanley knife) and a ruler to cut against, carefully cut the pork skin into thin strips that are about 1cm wide. Tip the strips into a bowl or dish and coat well in the spice seasoning, tossing and rubbing the seasoning into the pork with your hands until it’s all well coated. Cover and set the pork aside for at least an hour (or for up to 2 days in the fridge). The longer you leave it, the more the spices will permeate the pork.
To cook, heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 and get two similar sized large, shallow, sturdy baking trays - Swiss roll trays are ideal. Line the base to one of the trays with parchment paper and lay the pork skin over as evenly as possible. Ideally, you don't want the strips to touch too much, but if there is a bit of contact that’s fine. Lay another sheet of parchment paper over the skin and top with the 2nd tray, then place a heavy oven-proof dish like a casserole on top to weigh the top tray down.
Place everything in the middle of the oven for 40 mins, then carefully remove. Lift off the top tray and layer of paper and, using a fish slice or tongs, turn the straws and separate any that are touching and starting to stick together, then carefully pour off any fat. Place the paper and the weighted tray back on top and continue to cook for another 20 mins. Check again – what you are looking for are uniformly blistered, rusty coloured, snapable strips of pork skin. If they need longer, place them back in the oven covered with the weighed tray for another 10 mins and continue until they get there. The time very much depends on the quality of the pork - very good quality pork will take half the time it takes lesser quality pork to crisp-up.
When the straws are ready, drain them on kitchen paper then leave to cool. They will now keep in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Just before serving either sprinkle with a little more salt or dust them generously with icing sugar, or spilt them in two and do one to each half.
Sweet or salty?
The icing sugar may sound a little strange in this recipe, but the sweetness works really well with the salty, fattiness of the straws. Either way, if you love pork crackling then you’ll be in heaven.