A few years ago, a quince was rarely to be seen on a supermarket shelf in South Africa, but these days you can find them, during the autumn months, piled in fuzzy yellow pyramids, in selected greengrocers, and in bigger retailers such as Checkers and Pick 'n Pay.
I've mentioned quinces often on this blog (see Quince Jelly, Moulded Quince Jelly, and Old-Fashioned Quince Paste) not only because I love them, but also because I think they're one of those old-fashioned fruits that are in danger fading away into history, along with all those gnarled staples that have become too troublesome to grow, peel or eat on the hoof: among them prickly pears, celeriac, turnips, loquats and mulberries. Quinces might take a while to prepare, but, like sharp apples, are lovely with roast pork.
If you can't find pork belly in your local supermarket, ask the in-house butcher to cut a piece for you. If he won't, phone your local butcher and order a piece. You can ask for your pork belly to be boned, but I find that it has a better flavour if the rib bones are left in. Do ask the butcher to score the fat for you, because this is really difficult to do with even the sharpest kitchen knife (but a sharp craft blade or Stanley knife will do the trick).
In this recipe, I've glazed the quinces with delicious pomegranate concentrate, which is available, under the Verlaque brand, from Woolworths and selected food shops in South Africa. If you can't find pomegranate concentrate, use the equivalent amount of cranberry jelly, plus two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. You can add warming spices - such as cinnamon, cloves and star anise - to the cooking syrup, but I like the quince flavour just as it is.
Roast Pork Belly with Pomegranate-Glazed Cape Quinces
For the quinces:
1 cup (250 ml) white sugar
3 cups (750 ml) water
a slice of fresh lemon
3 large quinces
3 T (45 ml) pomegranate concentrate (or 3 T redcurrant jelly, plus 2 T - 30ml - lemon juice)
For the pork belly:
1.5 kg pork belly, fat scored
1 onion, unpeeled, roughly sliced
6 stalks of fresh fennel
4 thick slices of a fresh orange
2 tsp (10 ml) cumin seeds
2 tsp (10 ml) fennel seeds
1 tsp (5 ml) whole black peppercorns
1 tsp (5 ml) flaky sea salt
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
finely grated zest of a large orange
Pre-heat the oven to 160°C. Put the sugar and water into a medium-size saucepan, and add the lemon slice. Bring gently to the boil, stirring occasionally to help the sugar dissolve. Wipe the quinces with a clean cloth to remove any fuzz. Quarter the quinces, using a sharp knife, and then cut each quarter in half again. (Quinces are rock-hard, and the best way to do this is as follows: place the fruit, stalk-side up, on a chopping board. Slam the knife down hard on the top of the quince, and hammer the blunt upper surface of the knife with your fist a few times. Alternatively, a heavy cleaver will do the trick, as will a potato-wedging device.) Using a small, sharp knife, carve out the hard pith of each wedge. Drop the quince pieces into the sugar syrup, turn down the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the quince wedges are just tender when poked with a knife-point. Set aside.
In the meantime, prepare the pork belly. Fill a kettle with water and bring to the boil. Pour the boiling water, in a continuous stream, over the fatty side of the belly: this will help create good crackling. Set the belly aside. aside. Cover a deep roasting pan with a long length of greaseproof/parchment paper or tin foil - at least long enough to wrap the belly entirely. Make a little bed - the same size as the pork belly - of sliced onions, fennel stalks, orange slices and garlic. Put the pork belly, fat side up, on its bed.
Heat a frying pan over a moderate heat and tip in the cumin and fennel seeds. Toss, for a minute, until the seeds are hot and lightly toasted. Tip them into a mortar (or similar) along with the peppercorns, bay leaves and salt, and grind, using a pestle, to a rough powder. Stir in the grated orange zest. Rub this mixture over the top and sides of the pork belly, working it deep into the scorings in the fat. Pull up the sides of the baking paper or tin foil and pleat together make a loose parcel. Bake at 160°C for one hour.
In the meantime, remove the cooled quinces from their cooking syrup, using a slotted spoon, and place in an ovenproof dish just big enough to hold the wedges in a single layer . Measure out 150 ml of the cooking syrup, place in a small bowl and stir in the pomegranate concentrate. Drizzle this mixture over the quinces, and turn them over a few times so that they are well coated. Cover loosely with a piece of paper or tin foil.
Carve the belly into thick slices and serve with the quinces and some stir-fried greens.
Serves 4. Print Friendly