Heritage Day has comprehensively been hijacked by the Braai Brigade (read more here). There seem to be braai-ups happening all over the show, which means that several friends have been asking me what to cook. I suppose that’s what happens when one appears on Ultimate Braai Master…
OK, so the first dish is a ‘can’t-fail’ that I did for our Ultimate Braai Master (UBM) audition, the second was a specific request (and also done for UBM).
Asian-glazed pork belly with ginger sweet potato mash
This dish has nothing to do with the fashionability of gingers. The fresh root happens to be a great complement for sweet potato, and the two together are marvellous with pork.
I like to cut the pork belly to a rectangle, which has a ‘shorter side’ that measures about 10cm.
First step is to pre-cook the pork belly the day before your braai. There are some very smart and clever chefs who boil the pork belly. I don’t like this method, for the simple reason that boiling doesn’t build flavour, and it also doesn’t render fat as effectively. So, the way I do it is to remove the skin (explanation in a bit), dust the whole thing with NoMU Oriental Rub, and put it (fat side up) into a roasting tray that has been sealed with foil. Half a cup of water or a splash of soy sauce is probably a good idea, but it’s going to release a lot of moisture in the cooking process. Toss into the oven at about 150 degrees for a couple of hours.
Remove from the oven, allow it to return to room temperature, and refrigerate overnight. When the belly comes out of the fridge it’s easy to slice into portions about two inches wide.
The oven step can be replicated on the braai exactly the same way, or simply wrap the belly (well) in foil and cook with indirect heat.
I’ve never measured the quantities of the things that go into the marinade, but you’d be looking at something along the lines of:
2 tbsp Grated or finely chopped ginger
1 tbsp Sesame oil
½ tsp chopped garlic
½ cup Soy sauce
2 tbsp Sweet Indonesian soy sauce
1 tbsp Hoisin
2 tsp Honey
2 Limes (squeeze the juice into the jug in such a way that the phenolic oils in the skin spray into all the other stuff, then toss the spent limes into the mixture as well)
1 Chilli (or more, if you’re that way inclined)
For the sweet potato, chuck it into the oven whole. When cooked, scoop out the soft flesh and mash with ginger butter (fry ginger in butter to extract the flavour) and grated fresh ginger, to taste.
For the crackling, slice the skin into strips no more than 2mm wide. Toss with salt and slap under the grill until they turn into crisped little worms (well, it certainly looks that way when they wriggle under the grill). Put onto kitchen roll and put aside for garnishing the final plate. They also work really well as bar snacks.
To finish, toss the pork belly portions with the Asian glaze to coat well. Then put them onto moderate coals (with the sugar content, there is a risk of burning the belly portions) to warm through and caramelise the outside. Keep basting with the marinade to build up the glaze.
Put the remaining marinade into a saucepan and simmer briefly. This will be useful as a sauce to drizzle over everything when serving.
If you follow this method you can flavour the pork just about any way you can imagine. Something with smoked paprika and herbs would be great for bits of pork belly you’re planning to use with paella.
There was a time when I used to do these in dariole molds, so that they could be tipped out as perfect little domes. Doing them in demi-tasse is much more sensible and as effective.
Simple take your favourite chocolate fondant recipe (this one works) and put the mixture into the cups (or dariole molds if you are feeling brave).
What you need is a kettle barbecue, with moderate indirect heat. Put all the cups, leaving some space in between, onto a roasting tray. Whack the roasting tray onto the grill, put the lid back on and wait. This can be anything between 12 and 25 minutes. They are likely to cook at different rates (you are allowed to lift the lid to take a peek); when they have puffed up, with little cracks in the crust, remove and serve.