The Czech Republic was my own randomised choice. Eastern Europe to me is more about beer than food so I looked for something that involved beer in the recipe, and I didn’t have to look too hard. This is two thirds a traditional Czech Sunday lunch recipe and one third a traditional my family Sunday lunch recipe. Warning: for really good crackling you need a few days to prepare this one.
Czech-style Pork Belly Roast with Sauerkraut and Hawaiian Mash
Pork Belly joint with the skin on (if it’s come rolled, unroll it)
Salt and pepper
Beer (I used the world’s finest gluten free lager, Estrella Daura)
White wine sauerkraut
Streaky rashers snipped into little bits (you want something less chunky than lardons)
More caraway seeds
Cornflour or arrowroot
Equal quantities of diced carrot and swede
If you have the time, take the wrapper off the pork belly, score the skin into diamonds and leave it with the skin exposed to the air for at least a day – the more it dries out the better your crackling will be. Mix the mustard, caraway seeds, garlic powder and seasoning into a paste and smear it all over the pork meat and fat (but not the skin).
When you’re ready to cook, scatter the onions across the bottom of a roasting tin and place the pork on top. Pour in enough beer to half-submerge the meat still keeping the skin dry, and place in a preheated oven at 250°. After 30 minutes, turn the heat down to 180°. Leave it in the oven for at least another hour, adding more beer if required.
Rinse the sauerkraut and leave to drain while you fry the bacon, onion and caraway seeds to lightly brown. Add the drained sauerkraut to this pan and enough water to almost cover. Simmer until the water is about half the quantity, then thicken with cornflour or arrowroot.
For the Hawaiian mash, boil the carrot and swede until soft, then drain. Mash with the butter and nutmeg.
Once the pork is cooked, allow it to rest in a warm place for 15 minutes or so before carving into chunks and serving with the veggies.
I usually like sauerkraut and it is a natural partner for pork; I enjoy it on hotdogs or as part of a choucroute garni. In this case, though, I was pretty underwhelmed. B called it “interesting” which wasn’t a condemnation – he will tell me in no uncertain terms when he’s not enjoying something – but I wouldn’t rush to do it again and I don’t think he’d object to that. The pork, though, was brilliant! And who doesn’t love Hawaiian mash? Well – once you know what it is, I mean. For years I thought it was one of those things like Singapore noodles or London broil which is well known everywhere except in its nominal geographic origin. Then as mashed carrot and swede started to appear everywhere, I discovered that Hawaiian mash was my mother’s mother’s name for it, and that term will draw blank stares from anyone outside my immediate family.