Cooking with Lee Lee – Crispy Spiced Pork Belly

Hands up, who likes a nice piece of pork belly with crunchy crackling?! I wish I had more than two hands to put up.

I’m more than a fan. One word, OBSESSED! I wasn’t always the biggest fan of pork belly, mainly because it’s such a fatty cut of the pig and if it’s not cooked properly it can be extremely rich. There’s an art to cooking pork belly and getting crispy crackling, which isn’t all about a good recipe, even though it helps. It’s about knowing your oven, knowing the cut of meat you’re dealing with and having the confidence and persistence to keep at it until you get the ultimate crackling and juicy, tender meat.

The first time I tried roasting pork belly, the anticipation was almost too much to handle. There were so many unknowns and I just wanted so badly for the skin to crackle and for the meat to be somewhat edible. Nothing else mattered, I knew it wasn’t going to be perfect this time but I needed some confirmation that I was on the right track, a confidence boost to try again.  I practically watched it cook through the oven doors, resisting the urge to check on it every five minutes.

I tried no less than 4 times before I came up with this recipe. I trialed a few recipes, both western and eastern ways and took what I felt was going to work for me. This pork belly recipe is spiced with sichuan peppers and the flavors are predominantly Asian, which means I would serve this the typical Canton way, as a part of a banquet with other dishes and a fragrant bowl of rice. However, this recipe also lends itself well with caramalised apple slices and a cool pinot noir reduction served with celeriac mash.

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Crispy Spiced Pork Belly

Ingredients

1.5kg Pork belly, rind scored finely, ribs removed

2 tbsp Sea salt

1 tsp Whole black pepper

1 tbsp Sichuan pepper, ground and toasted

2 tbsp Chinese five spice, toasted

1 tsp Sugar

2 cups Chicken stock, cold

1 Kettle of boiling water

1 tsp Olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 120 degrees Celsius.
  2. Using a pestle & mortar grind up the salt, Sichuan and black peppers until the mix is fine and then add the five spice & sugar.
  3. Place pork belly skin side up in a colander or a rack, anything that drains. Pour a kettle of boiling water over the rind. Leave it to drain and dry well with paper towels. This will help to render down the fat and you should see the rind shrivel up a little.
  4. With the pork belly rind side down, rub the spice mixture into the flesh only. Turn it over and with clean, dry hands rub 1 tsp of sea salt and 1tsp olive oil into the rind.
  5. Place the pork belly on a wire rack, skin side up and place the wire rack directly over a roasting tray half filled with cold chicken stock. Try and sit the pork belly within the perimeters of the tray. The chicken stock will help keep the meat tender by almost steaming the flesh. Roast for 3-4 hours, this will depend on how thick the meat is.
  6. Finish the crackling off under a hot grill*, careful not to burn the skin. You should be able to hear the skin crackling. If the crackling is a little charred, scrape off the burnt bits with a serrated knife.

*Grill needs to be separate from the oven. If you do not have a separate grill from the oven, take the cooked pork belly out and allow the oven to cool a little before switching to the grill function. Alternatively you could also crank up the temperature to 220 degrees Celsius for the last 15-20 minutes but this may affect the end result of the crackling.

I know it’s not the prettiest thing before the great transformation…

The charred bits don’t stay but for my first attempt… Crispy crackling, CHECK! Tender, juicy meat… CHECK!!!!!!

We practically devoured these like chips. We just stood around the kitchen bench picking at this plate.

In every trial, the meat never made it out of the kitchen, let alone being served as a dish. My friends and housemates were all too happy to be available to lend their tastebuds for my experiments, which means I had to beat them off with a stick just to take these photos. They were fun times and I hope you enjoy trialing my pork belly recipe as much as I loved creating it.

Hope you’ve enjoyed Cooking With Lee Lee. If you have any questions about the recipe or if you’ve tried my recipe and want to share your thoughts, please leave me a comment. Happy roasting everyone.

It’s definitely worth every calorie!

Love Lee Lee =)

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Cooking with Lee Lee – Creamy Chicken and Leek Pie

Creamy Chicken and Leek Pie

Pies are the ultimate comfort food and nothing beats a hearty chicken and leek pie. Growing up, frozen party pies were the norm in our household because my mum refused to cook. I say REFUSED because she can cook, she just doesn’t want to do it so she didn’t have to clean the kitchen afterward. So frozen meat pies were the way to go and it was a case of, “I didn’t know any better!”.

The first time I had a homemade chicken and leek pie, it was like the first night in a new house. It seemed oddly familiar and yet I’d never been there before. It was the perfect balance of textures, flavors and ingredients, I didn’t want to change anything about it. I knew that it was love at first bite.

My first attempt at making my own chicken and leek pies was on my 26th birthday, which also happened to coincide with about five “Pie Face” joints popping up around Melbourne overnight. I thought I’d give them a run for their money.  There was a birthday party and instead of baking a cake, I baked a pie for my guests.

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Makes: 12 individual small pies*

Ingredients

4 chicken thighs, cubed

4 rashers of bacon, rind removed, roughly chopped

1 leek, halved length-ways and cut into 1cm strips

250g button mushrooms, sliced

1 tsp olive oil

2 tsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup of chicken stock

1/2 cup of milk

1/4 cup of plain flour

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup of grated tasty cheese

6 sheets of pre-made frozen puff pastry, cut 4 rounds of pastry per sheet, save the excess for patching.

1 egg beaten with 1 tsp of milk for glazing

sesame seeds to garnish

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet or deep frying pan. Add the chicken meat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the chicken is browned all over. Using a slotted spoon remove the chicken and keep to one side.
  2. In the same pan add the bacon, finely sliced leek and the button mushrooms. Cook for 3 minutes stirring occasionally until the leeks are softened. Remove and keep to one side with the chicken.
  3. Add the butter to the pan and melt over a medium heat, add the flour and stir well to incorporate all the flour into the butter. You should have a really thick paste. Using a hand whisk, slowly add the hot chicken stock and milk, whisking all the time until a smooth, creamy gravy is created, cook for 3 minutes, again stirring from time to time. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine chicken, leek and bacon mix and creamy gravy. Allow to cool.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
  6. Generously grease 15inch individual pie trays and line with a round of pastry. Pastry should be hanging over the side of the tray. Add the filling and sprinkle the cheese on evenly. Using a pastry brush, dampen the edges of the pastry lining with beaten egg, then cover with the pastry lid and crimp the edges to seal. Brush generously with beaten egg and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Using a sharp knife cut a small hole into the center of the lid to allow the steam to escape during cooking.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling bubbling.

I love eating the small/mini pies, it was my favorite thing to do as a child. I would squeeze tomato sauce in the center of the party pie, take tiny bites around the edges of the pie, take the lid off and put it back onto the pie with the sauce on the underside, slide the lid off leaving tomato sauce on the meat and then eat the lid. I would then fold the remainder of the pie up into a dumpling/calzone shape and suck the meat sauce out of one corner before eating the whole thing. I did this with every mini pie and I still do it on occasions. I almost always burnt my finger tips and the top of my mouth when I did this.

Do you have any weird habits when it comes to eating pies? Or any other food? Send me a comment, let’s hear it.

*I doubled my quantities in the ingredients department so I was able to make an extra one individual large pie.

Hope you’ve enjoyed Cooking With Lee Lee. If you have any questions about the recipe or if you’ve tried my recipe and want to share your thoughts, please leave me a comment. Happy baking everyone.

It’s definitely worth every calorie!

Love Lee Lee =)