this was the pork belly to end all pork bellies. i am still struggling to understand why it was so much better than any other pork belly i've ever made (and i have tried a couple of times since) but there are a couple of factors that may have contributed to it.
first, the pork was a hefty piece of belly, with the ribs taken off. so it was quite thin and flat. second, it was scored in very thin rows, probably no more than a centimeter apart and quite deep. third, it was from islington farmers' market, so must have been from a happy pig. i have tried to replicate the same thing with belly on the bone and it just didn't work - i think the fat doesn't render as much. this, as you can see from the photo (including the fact that we ate almost all of it), was perfect in that regard - that layer of fat between the skin and the meat, which i normally don't much like, had all but disappeared, leaving only the super crispy crackling and the soft, juicy meat underneath.
i followed nigella's recipe (i like how she, delia and jamie don't need second names any more) but only in part. i had no time to marinade the meat and in fact, i can't remember what i rubbed it with - garlic, soy sauce and oil, perhaps? but the temperature and the timing was definitely hers, and it worked perfectly: low and slow but not too low, then whack the heat up to crisp it up. i experimented with lower and longer and it just didn't work.
SLOW ROAST PORK BELLY
1.75 kg pork belly
marinade - see above but feel free to experiment, or just don't use anything
ideally, you will have left the pork in the fridge overnight, uncovered, to dry it out. i usually forget. however, do take it out of the fridge a couple of hours before you start cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.
preheat the oven to 150C. find a roasting tin that the pork fits snugly in and line with foil. smear your marinade on the meat side (you might have marinaded beforehand), then plonk the pork in the tin and rub the skin all over with salt. now roast the pork uncovered for 3.5 hours. whack the heat up to 250C for another half an hour to crisp up the skin.