A River Cottage Delight: Chinese Style Trotter and Pork Belly

If the Lifestyle Channel isn’t a big part of your television schedule and your life in general, then you’re going to need to make some changes asap. TVG is obsessed with the Lifestyle Channel, not just because of it’s personalities (Kevin, Phil and Kirstie, Jamie, Hugh) but also the diversity of it’s offering. The building, design and real estate contingent has always interested us but it’s the food aspect that has influenced today’s article.

In the last year River Cottage has filled a huge part of the Fox HD box at home, of course Jamie still delivers his excellent 30 minute meals and Rick is always impressing with his passion for unusual seafood and wonderful escapes but my main man at the moment is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Hugh is a very easy man to watch and like, he always seems so happy. His background story is respectable and heartwarming, moving from London to Dorset to focus on a more sustainable way of living and revive the sense of community he lost whilst living in the city. Every episode he’s doing something original, cooking with fresh and fantastic ingredients and most importantly bringing people together to experience it. His ideologies about food go beyond cooking and it gives his show context, depth and credibility.

Being winter I thought I’d try out a dish of Hugh’s that had been at the top of my list for months. Part of the reason he is so appealing and one of the reasons I selected this recipe is his respect for the animals, most importantly the ones he rears himself and a massive part of that respect comes from utilising the entire animal. The flowing recipe is a River Cottage classic, perfect homestyle cooking that is simple and delicious – I put it to the test last night with a couple of adaptations of my own and it hit the nail right on the head – an instant family favourite.

Ingredients – to feed 6

  • Big splash of sunflower/canola oil
  • 2 pig’s trotters
  • 2kg of pork belly
  • Palm sized knob of ginger
  • 3-4 large cloves of garlic
  • 2litres of good apple juice (enough to cover ingredients)
  • 125ml soy sauce
  • 75ml cider vinegar
  • 20g unrefined caster sugar
  • 2 large, whole, fresh red chillies
  • 1 tbsp of Schezuan pepper corns
  • Ground black pepper
  • Bok Choy 
  • Rice

Go to a good Chinese butcher and buy your pork, the Wing Hing Butcher in Willoughby (Map here) is our choice, they have a great selection and it’s all at an excellent price, 2kg’s of pork belly and the two trotters cost $24 dollars. Note: Also stocks an excellent lamb back strap and only takes cash.

Slice the pork belly into good single serve sizes, roughly 3inches wide. Peel the ginger and grate it. Peel the garlic cloves and crush them with your knife, then chop roughly. Select a BIG saucepan, it has to be deep enough to accomodate for all the pork, the trotters are bigger than you think and you need everything to be submerged.

Brown the meat in the oil, then add the ginger and garlic. Spend a couple of minutes coating the meat with the ginger and garlic cooking it until it is aromatic. Add the apple juice so the meat is covered, add the vinegar, sugar and the soy sauce. You can use a combination of soy sauces or just one, this one used light, dark and mushroom – you can adjust to taste. Finally, add the chillies and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer and let cook uncovered for roughly 2-2.5 hours.

*Schezuan pepper corns were added after an 1.5 hours and gave the dish a lovely spicy dimension – highly recommend adding these but it’s not going to ruing the meal if you don’t.

Remove the meat when it is tender and beginning to flake. Start cooking the rice. Turn the grill on and place the belly pieces skin side up on a tray, give it a quick blast under the grill to crisp the skin – Keep an eye on it because it will crisp up quickly! Whilst the meat is grilling, wilt the bok choy in boiling water for a couple of minutes. Strain and serve immediately with the pork belly and rice.

* The trotters are very interesting, Hugh’s recipe only uses them and not the belly but I was worried about the lack of meat on the trotter so I used them to add flavour to the saucepan because of the rich gelatins and bones. I served them on a platter in the middle of the table for people to pick at and try the flavours.

Feature image: Pete Dadds
Hugh B+W: Anthony Dorman


James is the Founder and Editor of The Versatile Gent.

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