Tonight, there were 130km an hour winds. They were blowing in a southerly direction. I rode home from work in a northerly direction. My 45 minute ride took 1 hour 15 minutes. My hips (yes, hips) started cramping about 5km out and I was nearly blown from my seat (oh vicar!) around six times. I hopped off my bike a sweaty mess and ready to collapse in a heap.
The upside to this disaster of a ride? I've burnt approximately 93 thousand calories and can eat whatever the hell I like tonight and you can't convince me otherwise. Unfortunately I arrived home totally pooped, couldn't be bothered cooking and made a toasted sandwich instead of pigging out on a luscious meal. Boring.
I wish I had that ride (or some more pleasurable form of exercise) on Sunday when my Mum came to visit. We'd been shopping for wedding dresses and she joined us for dinner that evening. I wanted to make something special for the lovely lady and so bought a gorgeous pork belly from Skinner and Hackett (a Bundarra Berkshire free range one, no less).
The stuffing for such a piece of meat needs to equally luxurious and decadent. The pork is kind of sweet, but still savoury with the crunchy, crispy crackling. I decided the soft, pink quince would couple well with wild rice, but needed a hint of colour. Green parsley and stuffing's resident flavour-maker, shallots rounded out the dish. I seriously could not wait.
You know what was surprising about this dish? The parsnips (Mum's fave) were an absolute knock-out. Normally I just toss them in the pan and hope for the best. Nine times out of ten the come out dried up, shrivelled piece of string. Not pleasant. This time around I steamed them into submission before roasting. I have my new favourite side dish.
Kale took the meal to another level. Now, I hope I haven't lost you with that last statement. Kale is incredibly healthy and kinda a lame thing to get excited about. It's green, leafy and choc full of vitamins and calcium. It doesn't mean it needs to be tasteless. This was savoury but clean and was a fantastic foil for the rich pork meat. What a combo.
So when it came time to dish up this meal, I thought I should perhaps check the nutritional value of the meat before digging in. What a way to spoil a meal. My only hint to you? Ride into a crazy headwind for over an hour before sitting down to this meal - you'll feel no guilt whatsoever.
1kg - 1.5kg pork belly
1 cup wild rice
6 cups water
1 stewed quince
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 bunch kale
1 cup chicken stock
Preheat oven as hot as it will go. Mine gets up to around 230ºC, so use that as a guide for the times in the recipe.
To prepare the wild rice, bring the water to the boil in a saucepan. Add the wild rice and simmer for around 25 minutes, or until the grains are just firm to the bite. Drain and place in a mixing bowl. Finely dice the shallots and saute for around 5 minutes, or until the shallot is translucent. Add to the wild rice. Cube the quince and add to the rice mixture. Finely shred the parsley and add to the rice.
To prepare the parsnip, cut the vegetable into large chunks and steam for around 5-7 minutes. Coat in around 1 tbsp of oil and season well.
Butterfly the pork belly by cutting lenghtways until around 2cm from the edge. Fold out to create a single thin piece of pork almost double the length. Spread the rice mixture along the pork belly, leaving around 5cm on each short edge. Roll the pork up and tie together with string.
Place on a baking rack in a roasting tin. Add the parnsip and place in the oven and cook with the door closed for around 40 minutes or until the skin of the pork has crackled. Lower heat and cook for another 25 minutes. Remove from oven and leave to stand for around 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice the garlic and saute in olive oil until just golden. Chop the kale roughly and add to the garlic. Cook, adding the chicken stock gradually until the kale is soft. Season well.
Carve the pork belly and serve with roasted parsnip and kale.