- 4 bay leaves
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 1kg rindless, boneless pork belly (it pays to use the best-quality pork you can find for this dish), cut into roughly walnut-sized cubes
- 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 10 juniper berries, roughly crushed, plush extra to decorate (optional)
- ¼ tsp Chinese five-spice powder
- large splash of brandy or Calvados
- 4 tbsp duck or goose fat (optional)
- sourdough toast
- cornichons or sliced gherkins
- dressed bitter leaves
Reserve 1 bay leaf, then tip everything except the duck fat and serving suggestions into a bowl and season generously. If you have time, cover and leave the meat to marinate overnight in the fridge – however, this isn’t essential.
Heat oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1. Tip the meat and all the juices into a flameproof casserole dish with a lid. Pour over 250ml water, or enough to just cover the meat, and place the pan on a low heat. As soon as it starts to bubble, pop on the lid and put in the oven for 2½-3 hrs, removing it once to give it a good stir.
The meat should now be very tender. Leave it to cool slightly in the pan, then drain over a bowl to catch the fat and juices. Shred the pork by hand or put in a food processor and pulse a few times to shred, but don’t overwork it into a paste. Taste, add extra seasoning if needed, then press meat into 2 small or 1 large serving dish, or pack into individual ramekins. Pour the juices and fat back over the meat, and put in the fridge for at least 2 hrs for the fat to harden. (To keep the rillettes for a week or so, cover with a layer of duck fat, and lay a bay leaf and a couple of juniper berries on top for decoration.)
Serve with sourdough toast, cornichons and a few bitter leaves (such as curly endive, rocket and radicchio), in a sharp mustardy dressing.