I’m a massive fan of pork belly. It’s such a versatile meat, as well as being full of flavour, easy to cook and cheap.

One of my favourite dishes ever is crispy pork belly pad thai from Try Thai in Manchester, which is what gave me the inspiration to think outside the box a bit more and try some recipes including pork belly that didn’t just involve roasting it and making crackling.

This turned out really well – it’s quite a low effort dish and could just as easily be made in the slow cooker as long as you removed the meat and reduced the sauce at the end.

I particularly enjoyed the accompaniment of pickled chilli, which cut through the richness of the pork.

Red braised ginger pork belly with pickled chillies

Red braised ginger pork belly with pickled chillies

Recipe from BBC Good Food

Serves 6-8

  • 2½ kg pork belly, rind removed, cut into 5cm pieces
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 200ml Shaohsing rice wine
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • thumb-sized piece ginger, cut into matchsticks
  • pinch of chilli flakes
  • 100ml Chinese black vinegar (available from Waitrose)
  • 140g soft brown sugar
  • 700ml vegetable stock

To serve

  • toasted sesame seeds
  • sliced spring onions
  • 2 red chillies, sliced and soaked in rice wine vinegar for 1 hr, then drained
  • steamed white rice
  1. Toss the pork with the soy and 1 tbsp of the rice wine. Leave for 1 hr or, even better, overnight in the fridge.
  2. Heat some of the oil in a medium heavy-based saucepan. Brown the meat, in batches, on both sides and set aside. Add a little more oil and cook the garlic, ginger and chilli for 2-3 mins until golden.
  3. Pour the vinegar, remaining rice wine, sugar and stock into the pan and bring to the boil. Add the pork, then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 2 hrs or until the meat is tender. For the final 30 mins, remove the lid, increase the heat and let the liquid reduce until thick and syrupy. Serve scattered with the sesame seeds, spring onions and sliced chillies, with rice.

Hirata buns are a current food trend in the UK, hitting London last year, after they became popularised in New York by chain Momofuku.

There is also a restaurant called Kitchenette in Manchester, which as far as I’m aware, is the only place that specialises in these steamed buns. They’re apparently Taiwanese in origin (called Gua Bao), but are usually given the Japanese name of Hirata.

I tried them first at Kitchenette and thought they were bloody delicious, so thought I’d have a crack at them at home.

They’re very light and pillowy, which is in complete contrast to steamed buns I’d tried before, which I found to be a bit heavy.

Hirata Buns with Pork Belly

Hirata Buns with Pork Belly

These are surprisingly easy to make and since they steam within minutes are quicker to actually cook then I first thought. Most of the recipe time is of course, for proving the dough and slow cooking the pork.

if youu like a bit of heat, you simply must eat these with sriracha chilli sauce (another current foodie trend).

Recipe from Olive magazine.

Makes 12 buns,

  • golden caster sugar 3 tbsp
  • dried active yeast 1 ½ tsp
  • plain flour 350g
  • rapeseed oil 4 tbsp
  • baking powder 1 ½ tsp

Pork belly filling

  • pork belly slices 1kg, skin and excess fat trimmed off
  • garlic 2 cloves, crushed
  • Chinese five spice ½ tsp
  • honey 3 tbsp
  • hoisin sauce 5 tbsp
  • soy sauce 4 tbsp
  • Shoaxing rice wine 4 tbsp
  • groundnut oil 2 tbsp


  • cucumber shredded and tossed with 
a splash of rice wine vinegar to serve
  • spring onions shredded to serve
  • Sriracha chilli sauce to serve

Mix the sugar and yeast with 250ml warm water and leave until the mixture starts to froth a little. Put the flour in a large bowl with a large pinch of salt and add 2 tbsp oil and the yeast mixture. Mix to a rough dough with a wooden spoon and then tip onto a floured surface and knead until you have a smooth, soft dough. Knead in more flour if you need to. Tip into an oiled bowl, turning the dough until it is coated in oil, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size. Punch the air out of the risen dough.

Tip it onto a floured surface, flatten it out with your hands and sprinkle with the baking powder. Fold the dough over and knead until the baking powder is incorporated and the dough soft. Cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

To make the pork filling put the meat in a dish in one layer. Mix the marinade ingredients and pour over the meat. Leave for 2-3 hours or overnight. Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Sit a rack on top of a roasting tin in which you’ve poured a splash of water. Lift the pieces of pork from the marinade put them on the rack. Roast the pork for 1 hour, turning and basting 2 to 3 times with the leftovermarinade.

To finish the buns, cut out squares of baking paper. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into an oval about 12 x 6cm (use a little more flour if the dough is sticky). Put on a piece of baking paper, brush one side with oil and fold gently in half using the paper (you want to be able to open them once they are cooked).

Put a large steamer over a medium heat and steam the buns a few at a time for
6-8 minutes or until puffed and cooked through (open carefully and check the middle is cooked through). Don’t let them touch or they will stick. Cut the pork into pieces and stuff into the buns with some cucumber, spring onion and a squirt of chilli sauce. Best made and eaten straight away.

I had a couple of pork steaks in the freezer that needed to be used and a quick internet search for inspiration led me to this.

This is nice and simple to throw together for a mid week meal, as everything is roasted together. It makes a nice change from just serving pork with apple sauce.

You have to be careful and make sure the pork doesn’t dry out, as it’s prone to do. Next time, I’d cut my pieces slightly larger to combat that.

I think the colours in this look really great on the plate too.

Pork and Cabbage

Pork and Cabbage

Recipe from BBC Good Food

  • ¼ a small head red cabbage , thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion , halved and sliced
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp unrefined dark brownsugar
  • olive oil
  • 300g pork shoulder steaks , trimmed of all fat, cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp whole coriander seeds , roughly crushed
  1. Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Toss together the cabbage and onions together in a large baking tray. Mix the vinegar, sugar, 1 tbsp oil and season. Pour half over the cabbage and add the rest to the pork shoulder. Mix the cabbage well, sit the meat on top, sprinkle over the coriander seeds and season everything.
  2. Bake for 25 minutes or until the pork is tender.

Well, I’ve posted about pulled pork enough for you all to know that I love it. It’s cheap, requires minimal preparation, feeds the five thousand and more importantly, is delicious.  So when I saw this recipe for a maple mustard version, I knew I’d be cooking the next time friends came over.

Though it is gorgeous, I personally prefer the smoky flavours of barbecued pulled pork, but my friend, Rachel, preferred this one.  It’s got a lovely sweet coating and the inner meat is as soft as you’d expect. I served this with braised red cabbage and baked potatoes with soured cream and spring onions. Perfect winter comfort food.

Though this is cooked in the oven, I recently bought a slow cooker so will be trying my next pulled pork recipe in that. Hopefully it will be even more soft and unctious!

Maple mustard pulled pork

Maple mustard pulled pork

Recipe, as ever, from BBC Good Food


  • 200g sea salt
  • 300g light muscovado sugar
  • 2kg/4lb 8oz piece pork shoulder
  • 100ml maple syrup
  • 100g wholegrain mustard
  • 2 tbsp English mustard powder
  1. Mix the sea salt and 200g of the sugar in a large food bag, add the pork and coat it well. (If you don’t have a bag, rub over the pork in a dish and cover with cling film.) Leave in the fridge overnight.
  2. The next day, remove the pork and wipe down the meat with kitchen paper. Heat oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1. Mix the remaining sugar, the maple syrup, mustards and some ground pepper. Rub half the mixture over the pork and sit it on a rack in a roasting tin. Roast for 6 hrs.
  3. Spoon the remaining maple mixture over the pork and roast for 1 hr more.
  4. Rest the meat for 30 mins on a plate loosely covered with foil. To serve, tear the pork into big fat chunks and, after skimming the surface, spoon over any juices from the tin.

I bought some pork loin steaks the other day – mainly because they were on offer and partly because I wanted to try something different. I do like pork, but it isn’t my favourite meat, so I don’t tend to cook with it that often. However, I’m always keen to try things again, with the chance that I’ll like them suddenly (well, it worked for peanut butter) . I quite liked the sound of sticky maple pork, so thought I’d give that a go.

Maple glazed pork with apples

This recipe was not enough to convince me that pork was now my favourite meat, but I liked it all the same. Pork and apple is a classic and the sticky maple and mustard sauce is rich and lovely. It was quick enough to make for a mid week meal too.

Recipe from BBC Good Food.

  • 600g pork fillets (I used loins)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 eating apples , cored and cut into eighths
  • 1 garlic , crushed
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp white or red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  1. Cut the pork into 3cm thick slices. Heat the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan, add the pork, then fry on both sides until lightly browned, about 5 mins in total. Lift out of pan and set aside. Add apples to the pan, then cook for 3-4 mins until starting to soften.
  2. Stir in the garlic, maple syrup, vinegar and 3 tbsp water, bring to the boil, then return the meat to the pan along with any juices. Simmer for a few more mins, stirring until the pork is cooked through and the sauce is thick and sticky. Stir in the wholegrain mustard, then serve.

Pork, to me, is one of those ‘blah’ meats. I’ve never had a piece of pork that’s made me exclaim how delicious it is – instead of pork fillet, it’s the cheaper cuts that deliver on flavour and of course there’s no denying the thrall of a bacon sandwich.

I do like pork belly however – with crunchy crackling and plenty of fat to keep the meat flavoursome and tender, it has won me over. I’ve tried a few methods of getting a tender piece of pork, with proper crackling and Jamie Oliver’s is the best I’ve tried so far (as is his roast beef recipe – apparently Jamie can do a good sunday lunch!).

Oven timings based on a 1.5kg piece of pork belly.

Preheat your oven to 220c/200c fan/gas 7. Score the pork skin and fat, then rub with half a lemon. Season the skin and meat with salt, pepper, nutmeg and thyme.

Roast the pork for 30 minutes, until the skin puffs and starts to turn into crackling. Reduce heat to 180c and roast for another hour.

Take the pork out of the oven, baste with juices and place on a board. Add 2 halved lemons, 1 bulb of garlic broken down into cloves, skin on, 2 sticks of celery, 2 halved red onions, and two chopped carrots to the oven dish. Place the pork on top and cook for another hour, or until tender. Lift out the pork, cover and let it rest before serving.

I served mine with carrots cooked in orange juice with mustard seeds, crushed potatoes with peas, homemade apple sauce and gravy made with the juices of the pork and crushed veg from the roasting tray. Delicious – and a great way to jazz up a cheap cut of meat!


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