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James Street South Cookery School: Pork belly with apple sauce and Apple Charlotte

Niall's pork belly with apple sauce, made with Armagh Bramley apples, now in season
Niall McKenna

ACROSS Northern Ireland, harvest season is in full swing and at this time of year the apple groves are heavy laden with deliciously juicy fruit.

Whether used for juice, cider, eating or cooking, apples are one of the most versatile fruits and go so well across both sweet and savoury dishes.

This week's recipes are two classic combinations that make perfect use of ingredients that are both in season. The pork belly especially is a great one to practice for a Sunday lunch and is very easy to perfect and it always goes down a treat.

PORK BELLY WITH APPLE SAUCE

(Serves 8)

4kg boneless pork belly

15 sage leaves, roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 carrot, peeled, roughly chopped

1 celery stick, cleaned, roughly chopped

½ leek, roughly chopped and cleaned

1 onion, peeled and chopped

For the apple sauce:

40g butter

4 large apples – Armagh Bramleys are good – peeled, cored and diced

1 tsp lemon juice

50g caster sugar

Start by pre-heating the oven to 220C. Score the pork belly in a zig zag pattern, deep enough for the skin to crack but not right through. Turn the pork belly over and season the meat side with salt and pepper and scatter the sage leaves and garlic. Roll the meat up lengthways and tie with string. The best way to do this is to tie one bit, move down and tie again, with a couple of inches in between each.

Place the pork belly on a rack in the sink. Boil a kettle and once the water is boiled, pour over the hot water. Pat the pork dry with a clean cloth and rub with vegetable oil and season with salt. Place the wire rack into a roasting tray and place in oven. Cook at this level for 50 minutes. Turn down the heat to approx 160C and roast for another hour.

After this hour remove the pork from the rack. Remove the rack from the tray, add in the vegetables and mix them so they are coated in the fat of the roasting tray. Place the pork back directly on to the vegetables and cook for another 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the meat rest for approx 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

For the apple sauce, place the butter into a pot and melt; add in the apple, lemon juice and sugar and cook until the apples are soft. Mix until the apples are pureed. Taste and add more sugar if required.

APPLE CHARLOTTE

(Serves 6)

1 large Armagh Bramley apple, peeled, cored and chopped

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped

1 lemon, zested and juiced

50g caster sugar

100g butter, softened

12 brioche bread slices

1 stick cinnamon

1 pinch grated nutmeg

1 pinch ground cloves

50g raisins, soaked in brandy

clotted cream to serve

Peel, core and chop the apple and place in a pan on a medium heat; add in the lemon zest and a ¼ (25g) of the butter, with the sugar, raisins, nutmeg, cinnamon stick and the cloves. Cook until soft and remove from the heat.

I have used a Charlotte mould for this dish: butter the inside of six of the moulds.

Cut the bread to match the height and size of the ramekins. It is best to use a brioche loaf – these are readily available in the supermarket. Cut the bread into soldiers and butter.

Place the rounds of the bread at the bottom of the mould and arrange the soldier slices on the inside of the ramekin. Overlap the slices if you can so that the apple and the juice do not escape. Once the mould is covered in bread, add in the apple and, once filled, top with the remaining rounds of bread.

Place in a preheated oven at 180C for 20 to 25 minutes. Once the top is golden brown remove from the oven and leave on a rack to cool. This is to be served warm so do not leave to cool for too long. Remove from the mould using a palette knife and transfer to a plate. Serve with clotted cream or custard.

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