It's not often that you'd call a salad a lifesaver but during the hot weather, a bowlful of rich, tender pork belly and fresh watermelon, dressed with herbs and pickled watermelon rind is exactly the sort of thing you want to be eating. Outside in your garden or up on your balcony, with both feet in a bucket of ice cold water and an equally cool beer by your side.
Rillons, in the words of Chef, are meaty snacks that hail from the Touraine region of France and are ever so slightly addictive, so it pays to have a constant supply on the go. After the initial cook, they can sit quite happily in the lard, imbuing in all that flavour until they are needed to come to the rescue.
OK, you will need to spend a short time in front of a fiery hob, to get them crisped up and when the needle is edge around the wall thermometer, they may be some temptation to cook au naturel. Do wear an apron or pinny though, as the rillons spit and splash in the pan a touch and you don't won't to burn anything sensitive.
If you get our drift!
Method - Stage 1
- Sprinkle the pork belly cubes with the sea salt and smoked paprika, cover and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, preheat the oven to 150°C/gas mark 2. Rinse the salt from the pork and pat dry with kitchen paper.
- Heat a frying pan over a high heat, add a little of the lard and fry the pork until brown all over.
- Place in one layer in an ovenproof dish, add the wine, bay leaf, garlic, thyme, rosemary, peppercorns, the remaining lard and the water and bake in the oven for 1½ hours.
- Once tender, remove from the oven and leave the pork to cool in the fat.
- Refrigerate for a few days before using.
Method - Stage 2
- To make the salad, cut the watermelon flesh into 2.5cm dice, discarding the seeds and reserving the rind. Refrigerate the flesh until ready to use. With a sharp knife, remove the outer green skin of the rind, reserving the white part. Dice the white rind into 1cm cubs and transfer to a heatproof bowl.
- In a saucepan over a medium-high heat, combine the cider vinegar, herb stalks, shallots, honey, 1 teaspoon salt and the water, then bring to the boil. Strain the liquid over the white watermelon rind and allow to cool, then chill for at least an hour. Add the lime juice and refrigerate until needed.
- Lightly dust the rillons with flour, shaking off the excess. Working in batches, fry in their own fat until dark golden brown and crispy - about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper and season with salt and pepper if necessary.
- In a mixing bowl, toss the watermelon flesh with just enough of the pickling liquid to coat, then divide between 4 serving plates. Add a few cubes of pickled rind to each plate and top with the pork. Garnish with a lime wedge, spring onions and herb leaves and drizzle with extra pickling liquor.
- If you would like to serve this salad up for a group, a sharing bowl works equally well and to bulk out, you can also add some rocket leaves. Just make sure everything is dressed correctly.
Recipes by Richard H. Turner, from his cookbook, HOG, published by Mitchell Beazley.