Paul Flynn: One pork belly, three dishes – leave nothing to waste

The best cooks can take leftovers and make something special with them, like these tasty dinners

Softly spiced pork belly with beetroot borani. Photographs: Harry Weir

Softly spiced pork belly with beetroot borani. Photographs: Harry Weir

 

Pork belly is a popular cut, except perhaps for the fat police. What makes it so delicious, though, is that very fat. It’s enjoyable to cook; you can see the meat becoming a wobbly wonder before your eyes. It succumbs to slow cooking, gradually morphing from something dense and unpromising into a sticky delight.

I’ve always had an attraction to the lesser cuts of meat; they always require just that little bit more imagination to use them well. That doesn’t necessarily translate to being difficult to cook. In fact, just leaving those cuts in a pot or tray to blip away on their own with some herbs or spices is all you need to do to transform them into something sublime. 

The best cooks are the ones who can take leftovers and make something special with them. There should be zero waste; the trimmings are simply fodder for a fertile imagination. So here are three ways with pork belly, one main recipe, then two ways to use up the leftovers.

The spiced pork belly recipe will also work with half a belly, with no difference to the cooking time. I’m settling for the comfort of winter spice, and as a result I’m eschewing the skin, so no crackling I’m afraid. The beetroot borani adds freshness and a bit of welcome colour. It’s also lovely as a dip or as part of a mezze platter.

This cassoulet is a simple store cupboard recipe made with the lovely Polish kielbasa sausage. To my shame, I only came across them for the first time recently. You can get various types of this sausage in Polish shops. If you can’t get hold of one, just use a good chunky sausage and some smoked paprika instead. This can also be a stand-alone dish, without the pork belly. You can make the cassoulet with just the sausage and perhaps some confit duck instead.

The rillette takes me straight to a little French bistro. It’s important just to pulse the meat only a couple of times as you don’t want it turning into cat food – a bit of texture is necessary. Eat with toast and cornichons.

Recipe: Softly spiced pork belly with beetroot borani

Softly spiced pork belly with beetroot borani. Photographs: Harry Weir
Softly spiced pork belly with beetroot borani. Photographs: Harry Weir

Recipe: Kielbasa cassoulet, parmentier potatoes, sour cream

Kielbasa cassoulet, parmentier potatoes, sour cream
Kielbasa cassoulet, parmentier potatoes, sour cream

Recipe: A simple rillette of pork

A simple rillette of pork
A simple rillette of pork
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