Sticky pork belly

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With one or both of us rattling around the house more often than we would have done during our harried, hectic corporate life in Toronto, I’ve been able to explore different approaches to cooking. My small fridge and ridiculously tiny freezer mean I’ve given up my old weekend standby of cooking large portions of soups, stews and Bolognese sauce for freezing, but now I have daily access to a couple of good, if very different, local grocery stores.

In my grandest version of myself, I can industriously whip up this marinade for pork belly in the morning before starting work and eat these slow-cooked, succulent slices of heaven soon after logging off for the day.

I recommend counting up the hours necessary for this recipe – if you want to eat by 6:30 pm, start no later than 11:00 am.

4 hour minimum (or overnight) marinade +
2 hours roasting (baste at 1 hour mark) +
20 minutes (approx) to reduce marinade after roasting +
20 minutes blast in a hotter oven after brushing on reduced marinade +
20 minute rest, covered with foil (this is when I steam bok choy and cook rice) = 7 hours

Adapted from BBC Good Food, I’ve halved the amounts for the marinade but feel free to double them if you are cooking for a gang. Eat with steamed bok choy and a scoop of Thai rice for a simple, peaceful supper.

500 grams pork belly
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
1.5 tbsp clear honey
1.5 tbsp rice vinegar
1.5 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp ketchup
1 cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated

In a large glass bowl mix together the marinade ingredients, add pork, making sure the marinade is coating it well, cover with cling film and marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight. You can also mix your marinade together in a glass measuring jug, place the pork belly slices in a large resealable bag and pour the marinade over before squishing and massaging and placing in the fridge.

Turning your oven to 160°C or 140°C fan (325°F), line a roasting tray with foil and transfer the pork and the marinade to the tray, pouring 50 ml of water over it. Cover with more foil and roast for 2 hours, basting at the 1 hour mark. Take pork out after 2 hours and increase oven temperature by 40°C – the new temperature will be 200°C or 180°C fan (400°F).

Remove pork slices to a plate, and carefully pour the marinade into a small saucepan. Cook the marinade until it becomes thick and syrupy (about 20 minutes). Place the pork back in the foil-lined pan and brush some of the now sticky marinade over it, and roast uncovered at the new high temperature for 20 minutes. The marinade should be caramelised in some spots. Take pork out, cover with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes.

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Honey-Thyme Marinade for Pork

That’s going into the rotation!” Jeff said as we finished the pork loin. I had planned to have leftovers for a sandwich, but the pork was just so tasty that we couldn’t stop.

Sweet and aromatic, this marinade from the Globe and Mail takes very little time to make and imparts so much flavour.

3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp thyme
1/2 small red onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil

Pulse all ingredients in food processor. Pour into large freezer bag containing 1 pork tenderloin (or indeed any pork – about 2 servings worth).

I don’t know what I did before I discovered the simple concept of freezing meat right in its marinade – the meat marinates as it defrosts in the fridge. This marinade works well with the freezer method, and helps me stock up on pork tenderloin when it’s on sale at my favourite grocery store, Lady York Foods.

Toulouse Sausages and Peppers

Toulouse Sausages and Peppers

In times of anxiety, I tend to retreat into the familiar. Life becomes about getting enough sleep, making sure that I’ve got food in the house, clean laundry and necessities stocked up, and a comforting stack of books, tv shows and movies to transport me away from it all.

This is not the time for me to try new recipes or throw dinner parties. I’ll leave that to more intrepid cooks with steadier nerves. Speaking of which, mentioning my nerves always makes me feel like a 1950s housewife, minus the pill addiction!

Instead, I rely on a freezer and pantry full of greatest hits and easy to put together meals. Like this one. Even I, with my shredded nerves, can handle slicing up some onions, bell peppers and Toulouse sausages and frying them in my cast iron pan. Served alongside some Yukon potatoes boiled with their skins on and voila, peaceful dinner in no time. Perfect for this chilly, miserable, Marchy weather we’re having right now.