Subscribe and choose a new cookbook
The perfect Christmas gift for you or a loved one
The day before you want to eat, lay the pork belly skinned-side down, season generously, scatter over the fennel seeds and crumble over 3 of the bay leaves. From the widest side, roll into a tight log and use some butcher’s string to tie at regular intervals. (You could take some fennel seeds and bay to your butcher and ask them to do it for you.)
Heat oven to 170C/150C fan/gas 3 1/2. Melt the butter in a large, shallow flameproof casserole dish or ovenproof sauté pan. Brown the pork all over (this will take a good 15 mins), then remove from the pan and add the vegetables and remaining bay leaves. Cook for about 10 mins until starting to colour. Nestle the pork among the veg. Pour over the cider and bring everything to a simmer, cover and cook in the oven for 2 hrs.
When the pork is ready, leave to cool a bit, then remove the pork from the braise and chill. Strain the sauce into a jug and chill. Fish out the bay leaves and blitz the veg to a purée in a food processor. Tip into a bowl and chill.
On the day, heat oven to 220C/ 200C fan/gas 8. Cut the pork into six rounds. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the pork, then put in the oven for 20 mins, turning halfway through, until crispy. Meanwhile, remove the solidified fat from the top of the braising juices, simmer until syrupy and reheat the purée. Serve everything in the middle of the table or smear some of the purée across plate, sit a piece of pork on top next to a burnt butter cabbage wedge, a piece of potato cake and some crackling (see 'Goes well with', right). Pour over some of the sauce and serve.