Lechon – fantastic porky goodness

Warning – This post is not diet-friendly.  Not at all.  Even a little bit.  Unless the diet your on is one where you’re actively looking to gain weight.  In which case, bring it!

Sometimes, running in the morning feels like incredibly hard work.  I mean *incredibly* hard work.  This morning was one of those mornings.  And I blame my body’s apathy entirely on Lechon.

I thought I’d come across the best ways to slow cook a lump of pig already.  Pibil, carnitas, what could beat those 2?  And then along comes Lechon.

For those of you who didn’t watch Mary Berry’s Easter Feast (watch for it on the BBC iPlayer, it’s bound to come back), Lechon is a Filipino pork dish that can be cooked using a cut as small as a large slab of belly or scaled right up to the whole hog.  It’s prepared for Easter and served to the whole family.

World-record breaking Lechon
Good, but what’s everyone else having.

Long story short, it’s a slab of pork, skin on, slow-roasted until the skin is crackling and the pork is moist and gorgeous.  And if you do it with belly pork from the butchers, this one isn’t going to break the bank.

There are as many recipes for Lechon as there are families in the region, it seems, so while mine won’t be 100% authentic, it’s a good approximation.  We had a slab of belly pork roughly 60cm long by 30 wide (2 feet by 1 foot in old money).  Adjust ingredient quantities accordingly.

Phase 1 – Brining

You will need…

  • Pork belly, skin on.  It’s up to you whether you have the skin scored or not.  On the program, it wasn’t scored, in the pictures and recipes I’ve found it wasn’t scored.  Our butcher scored ours on autopilot and we ended up with the MOST AMAZING CRACKLING EVER at the end.  YMMV.
  • Salt.  Loads of it.
  • Bay leaves
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic
  • Lemongrass, 2 stalks, bashed
  • Water

Into a couple or 3 litres of water – more if you’ve got a bigger slab of meat – mix the salt until it’s dissolved and then add all the rest of the ingredients.  Brine is seriously salty stuff, so if it tastes a bit insipid, add more salt.

Leave the meat submerged in this overnight.  The next morning, dry the meat, discard the brine and prepare for…

Phase 2 – The Cooking

Alrighty.  Oven to 130°C, quick spin around the ingredients, Clive, then back to me.

  • 6 lemongrass stalks, pounded with a rolling pin and split lengthways with a sharp knife.
  • 2 onions, chopped in half then thinly sliced (or a bunch of spring onions)
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Sea salt
  • Oil
  • String

Lay the meat skin-side down and arrange the lemongrass, (spring) onions and garlic along the centre.  You’re going to roll this up, so these need to be in the middle.

Several recipes I found include a “milking” step at this point, where the skin is painted with milk and left for an hour for it to soak in.  We didn’t do this, largely because we wanted it in the oven and hadn’t banked on needing another hour.

Roll it up, tie it off with the string – one loop and knot every 3 inches or so – then oil it and rub in the salt.

Place on a roasting tin, cover with foil and stick it in the middle of the oven for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, remove the foil and give it another 4 hours.

Finally, once you’re about 20 minutes from wanting to serve, jack the oven temperature to 230C and let that scored skin crackle up good!

Once all that is done, you’re ready for…

Phase 3 – The Eating

And if you need my help with this stage, I’m more than happy to oblige.

We served ours with some plain white rice, a tomato and onion salsa and some home-made chutney, all wrapped up in a, well, wrap.

And it was all going so well until about 10pm when we fancied a snack watching Maigret and stuffed ourselves with a large sandwich – Lechon, mayo and the chutney you first thought of.

24 hours later and I’m still full.

I may never eat again.

Is that the leftovers?  Pass the chutney.


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