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Saturday, 15 July 2017

Slow-Braised Pork Belly in Honey Mead, Soy, Juniper Berries & Liquorice - My Recipe in Collaboration with Bombay Sapphire Gin

Gin is one of my very favourite tipples, so I was thrilled to be asked to take part in Bombay Sapphire’s The Grand Journey, taking place between 17 and 23 July 2017 at London’s Banking Hall. But best of all, I got to experiment with some of Bombay Sapphire's botanicals and create a new recipe which I am sharing with you below, but more on that later.

The Grand Journey will be an immersive drinking and dining experience which explores the ten botanicals from around the world used in Bombay Sapphire gin. Ten dishes have been newly created by Michelin-starred chef Tom Sellers of Story Restaurant especially for this event - each will feature one of these botanicals: juniper berries, citrus, angelica, orris root, coriander, liquorice, cassia bark, almonds, cubeb berries and West African grains of paradise.

I recently got to visit Story Restaurant to find out more, and to cook one of these dishes with Chef Tom Sellers. His scallop two ways uses Spanish lemons (one of the gin botanicals), and this is what we made together.

It was a delightful dish of raw and pan-fried scallops – Tom mixed diced raw scallops and apple with lemon, crème fraiche and fine slices of radish. The pan-fried scallop was served with a super-light and zingy lemon foam, a very sophisticated hollandaise-style creation brimming with flavour, zinginess and intense citrus flavours.

Bombay Sapphire brand ambassador Sean Ware was also at Story Restaurant to prepare some fabulous cocktails, some of which will be available at The Grand Journey. I was interested to hear that for Sean, the measurements for a perfect G&T are 100ml tonic to 50ml gin, with loads of ice.

But beyond that, one of Sean’s gin cocktails that really impressed me was the Maghreb Hi-Ball. Made from 1 part each of Bombay Sapphire gin, water, and Moroccan liqueur (a heady concoction of vodka, dried mint leaves, coriander seeds and saffron) to 2 parts of honey mead, garnished with fresh mint leaf, this was as exotic and spicy as it was refreshing.

This was also the first time I got to try mead, an ancient drink thought to be the oldest of all alcoholic beverages preceding even wine, made from fermented honey. Unsurprisingly, it has a pronounced taste of honey and a rich, luscious sweetness. With an alcohol content as high as 14.5%, it resembles a fortified wine.  

Inspired by this experience, I went back to my own kitchen and decided to play around with some of the botanicals in Bombay Sapphire gin, as well as honey mead. One ingredient I thought was crying out to be combined with these – PORK BELLY!

In this recipe, I use one of my favourite cuts of meat, which is a great accompaniment to the sweet flavours of the honey mead, the savouriness of dark Japanese soy sauce, and the botanicals licorice root and juniper berries. 

This is an easy dish to prepare, and one I hope you will try out at home – it will taste even better the next day. All you need is a bowl of white rice and a refreshing Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic to go with it.

Slow-Braised Pork Belly
in Honey Mead, Soy, Juniper Berries & Liquorice
With Tatsoi-Sesame Greens

Ingredients (serves 4):
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1kg g boneless pork belly, in one piece
  • 200g raw brown rice
  • 500ml chicken stock (or water)
  • 240ml Honey Mead liqueur
  • 120ml soy sauce
  • 30g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, lightly bruised with the back of a knife
  • 8 dried juniper berries, lightly bruised with the back of a knife
  • 5cm liquorice root (can substitute with 1 star anise, whole)
  • 1 tbsp English mustard
  • 1-2 tsp cornflour, dissolved into two tbsp water (optional)
  • Baking paper, cut in a circle to the size of the casserole lid and with a centre vent/hole
For garnish:
  • 200g Tatsoi greens (or Bok Choy), roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp toasted white sesame seeds (optional)
  • Maldon sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper 

1. Heat the oil in a large heavy casserole over medium-high heat. Add the pork belly, skin side down, and sear until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn over and brown on the other side, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer the browned pork to a colander and run under hot water to remove excess oil. Pour off the fat from the casserole and wipe it clean.

2. Return the pork belly to the casserole. Sprinkle the raw brown rice over the meat. Pour in enough cold water to cover by an inch and bring to a simmer over high heat. Cover with the cut out circle of baking paper with a centre vent. Braise gently until the pork is tender when pierced with a knife, about 2 hours (and up to 6 hours). Add water to the pot if necessary, as the meat should be kept covered in liquid throughout this process. 

3. Carefully remove the pork, keeping it in one piece. Discard the rice and the cooking liquid and wash off any residue off the pork under running water. Dry the pork belly with kitchen paper or a clean tea towel, and let it cool down to room temperature. If not cooking right away, tightly wrap the pork in cling film and refrigerate it for up to 2 days.

4. Cut the pork crosswise into 4 to 8 square pieces of roughly equal size. In a heavy casserole, add the chicken stock, honey mead, brown sugar, garlic cloves, soy sauce, liquorice root or star anise and crushed juniper berries, stirring over high heat until all the ingredients are mixed completely. Add the pork into the pan and return to the boil. Then reduce to a simmer and cook, turning occasionally for 1-2 hours or until the pork is very tender.

5. Gently strain the cooking liquid into a clean pan, reduce over a high heat until lightly syrupy and concentrated for about 5 minutes. Do be careful not to over-reduce the sauce as it will become too salty; if you need some thickening help, dissolve the cornflour in a little cold water and whisk in, little by little, until the sauce thickens to a coating consistency. Check for seasoning and adjust.

6. To prepare your garnish, blanch the leaves and stalks of the tatsoi greens in plenty of boiling, salted water for 15 seconds, drain, squeezing as much water as possible with a clean tea towel. Transfer the greens to a bowl, season with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a tsp each of toasted sesame oil and seeds, mix well. 

7. To serve, top each piece of pork with about 2 tablespoons of the reduced sauce, a dollop of English mustard and the tatsoi-sesame greens on the side.

For more information on Bombay Sapphire gins, cocktails and The Grand Journey, visit their website at http://www.bombaysapphire.com.

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