Category Archives: Pork


IMG_7663The Rive Café cookbooks are fabulous, and their slow-roasted shoulder of pork is, hands down, my favourite way to eat pork. It has become our family’s Christmas dinner staple (during my almost three years of being a vegetarian I would cave once a year, on Christmas day, and eat this) and is basically fool proof. Slow cooking like this produces meat that falls off the bone and for reals melts in your mouth. The pan juices also make the most amazing gravy- bonus! Even friends who do not like pork like this dish.

We typically have this with apple sauce, some kind of simple green vegetable, salad and new potatoes. I have also used the recipe to do a kind of pulled pork sandwich easy summer dinner.


This recipe feeds about 8 people. We recently used a 4.5kg piece of shoulder to feed 12 people and it was pretty perfect (always err on the side of caution – leftover roast sandwiches the next day are SO good). If using a large piece of meat just increase the other ingredients accordingly. According to the River Cafe ladies you can cook this from 8-24 hours – the longer the better! When serving for dinner we usually pop it into the oven after breakfast. 9 hours seems about perfect for this size piece of meat, although an extra couple of hours would likely be even more delicious!

Always buy freedom farmed happy pork and ask your butcher to score the skin for you. SO much easier than DIY. If you like your crackling to be nice and crispy, as we do, remove the skin once the meat is out of the oven, chop up roughly, and place under the grill until it is done to your liking.


Serves 8

1 small whole shoulder of pork, with skin, about 2.75-3.25kg/6-7lb

10 garlic cloves, peeled

100g/4oz fennel seeds

Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper

5-6 small dried red chillies, crumbled

juice of 5 lemons

3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 230C/450F. If your butcher hasn’t already done this for you, score the whole skin of the shoulder with deep cuts (about 2cm between each cut).

Smash the garlic with the fennel seeds, then mix with salt, pepper and chilli to make a rough paste. Rub and push this mixture into and over the skin and all the surfaces of the meat. Place the shoulder on a rack in a roasting tin and roast for 30 minutes or until the skin begins to crackle up, blister and brown. Turn the shoulder and pour over half the lemon juice and two tablespoons of the oil. Place back skin side up, turn the oven down to 120C/250F, and leave the meat to roast, overnight or all day. Baste the meat occasionally with extra lemon juice and, if necessary, a little more oil.

The shoulder is ready when it is completely soft under the crisp skin. You can tell by pushing with your finger: the meat will give way and might even fall off the bone. Serve each person with some of the crisp skin and meat cut from different parts of the shoulder. Add extra lemon juice to deglaze the pan, and spoon some of this over. Make a gravy with the remaining pan juices – remove any overly dark clumps of fennel seeds, place the pan over a medium-high heat, add a little water and, stirring well, bring to the boil before adding a couple of teaspoons of flour to thicken. The combination of lemon, fennel, olive oil, chilli and meat juices makes for the BEST. GRAVY. EVER.

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Vietnamese Caramelised Pork Belly


Parkside Café in Mt Albert, Auckland, is the most wonderful place. It’s a very unassuming regular (but tasty) café during the day, but a few nights a week they open for dinner and serve the most incredible Vietnamese cuisine. Their Vietnamese Caramelised Pork Belly is the best way I’ve ever eaten this cut of meat, and every time I go to Parkside I leave dreaming of recreating this meal at home. I finally had the chance this week when I came across some Black Rock freedom farmed pork belly.  It also happened to be my mum’s birthday. Good excuse to make something a bit more decadent! There are a huge number of varying recipes for this dish online, but the one I came across that seemed to be the most similar to what I wanted is this one. I have adapted the recipe somewhat to include star anise, less sugar and a few other bits and pieces.

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This is definitely a “sometimes food” kind of meal, but we’re all allowed to be a little bit naughty now and then. Don’t freak out (as I did) if it looks pretty anaemic and unappealing at the beginning, trust me, it is a completely different looking dish at the end of cooking! I removed the chillies towards the end of cooking once they began breaking down as I wanted a good level of heat, but not the mouth-watering spice that can occur once the seeds have been unleashed from their shells.

I wanted some simple vegetables to cut through the richness of the pork, so just pan-fried some zucchini in a little coconut oil, salt & pepper.

Serve with some nutty brown rice and you’re good to go!

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1kg pork belly (free farmed)

175g raw brown sugar

2 litres (8 cups) water

½ cup good quality fish sauce

75 g sugar, extra

1 onion, roughly diced

2 star anise

4 fat cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1 tsp salt

2 tsp fine white pepper

3-6 red bird’s eye chillies, left whole

How to

Cut the pork belly into 2x4cm pieces and set aside.

To make the caramel, put the sugar and 2 tbsp of water in a large heavy-based saucepan and place over high heat. Cook without stirring until sugar becomes foamy & bubbly & a rich golden colour (this shouldn’t take long, don’t let it get to the candy stage) then carefully add the pork pieces to the pan.

Stir well to coat the pork with the caramel and then add the water. Bring back to the boil, skimming off any fat and impurities that rise to the surface with a slotted spoon.

Reduce the heat to a simmer, then add the fish sauce, extra sugar, onion, garlic, ginger, star anise, salt and pepper. Cook for about 1 hour 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. the sauce will eventually reduce to about 1/4 of its original volume and will darken and become glossy as some of the fat melts off the pork. If you think it needs a little longer than 90 minutes, keep it simmering for another 15-20, topping up the sauce with ½ cup of so of water.

Serve over brown rice with vegetables on the side.

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