For the quinces:
1 cup (250 ml) white sugar
3 cups (750 ml) water
a slice of fresh lemon
3 large quinces
3 T (45 ml) pomegranate concentrate (or 3 T redcurrant jelly, plus 2 T – 30ml – lemon juice)
For the pork belly:
1.5 kg pork belly, fat scored
1 onion, unpeeled, roughly sliced
6 stalks of fresh fennel
4 thick slices of a fresh orange
2 tsp (10 ml) cumin seeds
2 tsp (10 ml) fennel seeds
1 tsp (5 ml) whole black peppercorns
1 tsp (5 ml) flaky sea salt
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
finely grated zest of a large orange
Pre-heat the oven to 160°C. Put the sugar and water into a medium-size saucepan, and add the lemon slice. Bring gently to the boil, stirring occasionally to help the sugar dissolve. Wipe the quinces with a clean cloth to remove any fuzz. Quarter the quinces, using a sharp knife, and then cut each quarter in half again. (Quinces are rock-hard, and the best way to do this is as follows: place the fruit, stalk-side up, on a chopping board. Slam the knife down hard on the top of the quince, and hammer the blunt upper surface of the knife with your fist a few times. Alternatively, a heavy cleaver will do the trick, as will a potato-wedging device.) Using a small, sharp knife, carve out the hard pith of each wedge. Drop the quince pieces into the sugar syrup, turn down the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the quince wedges are just tender when poked with a knife-point. Set aside.
In the meantime, prepare the pork belly. Fill a kettle with water and bring to the boil. Pour the boiling water, in a continuous stream, over the fatty side of the belly: this will help create good crackling. Set the belly aside. aside. Cover a deep roasting pan with a long length of greaseproof/parchment paper or tin foil – at least long enough to wrap the belly entirely. Make a little bed – the same size as the pork belly – of sliced onions, fennel stalks, orange slices and garlic. Put the pork belly, fat side up, on its bed.
Heat a frying pan over a moderate heat and tip in the cumin and fennel seeds. Toss, for a minute, until the seeds are hot and lightly toasted. Tip them into a mortar (or similar) along with the peppercorns, bay leaves and salt, and grind, using a pestle, to a rough powder. Stir in the grated orange zest. Rub this mixture over the top and sides of the pork belly, working it deep into the scorings in the fat. Pull up the sides of the baking paper or tin foil and pleat together make a loose parcel. Bake at 160°C for one hour.
In the meantime, remove the cooled quinces from their cooking syrup, using a slotted spoon, and place in an ovenproof dish just big enough to hold the wedges in a single layer . Measure out 150 ml of the cooking syrup, place in a small bowl and stir in the pomegranate concentrate. Drizzle this mixture over the quinces, and turn them over a few times so that they are well coated. Cover loosely with a piece of paper or tin foil
Turn the the oven up to 200°C. Remove the pork belly from the oven and open up the parcel just wide enough to expose the fat, but not so wide that the juices escape. Put the belly back in the oven, on the top shelf, and place the quinces on the bottom shelf. Cook the pork and the quinces for an hour or so, basting the quinces every now and then with their syrup juices. When the pork crackling is golden and very crunchy, and the syrup around the quinces has reduced to a sticky glaze, dinner is ready!
Carve the belly into thick slices and serve with the quinces and some stir-fried greens.
Jane-Anne Hobbs is a food writer de luxe. Recipe developer and photographer, she has written a stunning cookbook Scrumptious, click here to read my review. Always on the look out for low carb dishes, she has latterly come up with some stunners, and this is one of them.
CLICK HERE to go to her website.
Michael’s wine recommendation – click here