A couple of weeks ago I was invited along to the Jamie Oliver cooking school to learn how to cook a roast pork belly; Jamie Oliver essentially saved Christmas.When I first arrived in the UK I was a wizard in the kitchen out of necessity; I was skint and couldn’t afford any food with packaging. I made everything from scratch (including Nutella because it was 50p cheaper than buying it) and was confident trying something new or tweaking old favourites. Fast forward four years and one stressful job later and takeaways reigned supreme. I was incapable of cooking the most simple of dinners. These days I have a fridge to myself and am vaguely more stable, so the land of cooking is in my sights. I wanted to cook something spectacular for Sinta-Thanksgiving and thankfully (see what I did there) I had one week between the Jamie Oliver Cookery School and the big day to perfect my roast pork belly.
The thing with pork belly is that is a cheap cut of meat, and as long as you have time to cook it to death then it is affordable and quite hard to screw up. Pork belly has such a good amount of fat in it that it is you can’t overcook it, making it ideal for easily distracted millennials. As you might notice above my pork belly had nipples, which meant we had to spend at least ten minutes making jokes about nipples – see, easily distracted.
To have a go yourself you cut up a random selection of vegetables (these are just to stop the pork touching the juices, and you can use them later for the gravy) and then balance the pork belly on top. Using a fiercely sharp knife you need to score the top and then literally rub salt (and some herbs) into the wound. And that is pretty much it for the pork. The magic really all happens in the cooking – high oven for 15 minutes or until the skin starts to bubble, then throw in 500ml of stock and cook for 2-4 hours. Seriously just leave that sucker in there and maybe add some white wine to the tray when there is half an hour to go.
I really liked the style of the classes, you prepare your own pork belly over a glass of wine (a very important part of cooking), and at the end you sit down as a group and eat the one that was cooking throughout the class. Here is the magic bit, you take home the one you prepared during class – you even get to keep the tray it is in. I was thinking that I would learn to cook it in the class and then replicate it from scratch the following weekend, but actually I was able to just take my nippley pork home and throw it in the freezer. When it came to the day all I had to do was defrost and cook.
I have been to a few cooking classes in my attempt to be a functioning human adult, and this is by far the best. You got your own station which means you had to practice every step yourself. It was very relaxed with plenty of time for questions and to swap pork belly horror stories – aka as well as being a fun evening it actually helped me learn how to cook. A winning formula really. Check them out on twitter here.