All of our pork comes from native-breed pigs, that have been reared outdoors, on British farms; and it should come as no surprise that we are supremely confident of the quality and flavour of the meat. But there is always room to push things up a notch or two. Which is why we also offer something extra special in our Black Label range. Namely pork sourced from Oxford Sandy and Black pigs.
These handsome oinkers have been bred in the UK for over 200 years now but for a period of time in the 1980's, they very nearly disappeared from existence. However, thanks to the efforts of dedicated farmers and not forgetting to mention the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig Society, they were brought back from the brink.
Characterised by their rusty coats with black, mottled spots, our pigs graze by the banks of the River Wiske, in Yorkshire. Given that they are slow grown, you might expect that they would carry an extra amount of fat. But compared to a breed such as say, Mangalitsa, the pork they produce is evenly balanced and rather succulent as a result. Lip smacking even. Which is testament to their diet and ability to forage for delicious roots.
When it comes to cuts, we offer the usual array of diced shoulder, escalopes and leg joints, giving you the enviable dilemma of deciding whether to cook cider and sage casserole; breaded steaks flavoured with lemon and Parmesan; or a cracking great big Sunday roast. With crackling.
For our money, belly is a particularly good option. Placing directly on the top shelf, in a hot oven to roast - with a pan of vegetables underneath - is definitely an excellent shout. Braising slowly in stock, with aromatics would be an equally decent decision, all ready to be carved into wibbling slices of joy.
And if you can combine both approaches, then even better. The recipe below does exactly this, using a host of spices and chilli to ensure a kick, along with a quick blast in the pan to deliver some crust and bite.
Served up with a deep and rich accompanying broth, this is definitely a winter warmer. But this treatment of the pork would also go down well on the BBQ. That's if you've cracked it out already.
We bet you have.
Twice Cooked Oxford Sandy and Black Pork Belly - serves 4
- First, place the pork belly into a stock pot, large enough to fit but still keeping quite snug. Cover with water, place on the hob and slowly bring up to simmer and leave to gently poach for 15 minutes. This is to draw out any scum from the pork belly - which you should skim off - and give you a clearer broth.
- After this time, take the pork out and pour the water away. Clean the pot out and place the pork back in and again, cover with water and place over medium heat.
- Add the soy, ginger slices, chilli, cinnamon stick, Szechuan peppercorns, star anise, garlic and Shaoxing rice wine and bring to a boil, before reducing to a simmer.
- Cover the pot with a lid and leave the pork to gently cook for about 2 hours, until the meat is very tender and the bones are beginning to pop out. Once done, remove the pork belly and leave to cool down a touch.
- To create the broth, drain the cooking liquor through a fine sieve into a saucepan and place on the hob. Bring the heat back up and add the honey and thicken until the sauce coats the back of a spoon - this can take up to 30 minutes.
- Check for seasoning but remember the Szechuan peppercorns and soy should take care of things, so taste before adding!
- Next, carve up the pork belly into generous slices and heat a cast iron pan on the hob, adding a touch of oil.
- Add the pork belly and fry quickly, until nicely charred and bubbling up the skin in the process. You could also do this over charcoal, should you wish.
- Serve with some plain rice and steamed green vegetables, such as spinach or pak choi. Place your pork belly slices on top and finish with a generous helping of the broth poured all over the pork.