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Recipe: Lazy Sunday pork buns

Chrissy Dupé

The leaves have turned and it’s starting to get chilly. Winter is almost here. Lazy Sunday afternoons at home with the heater on, a glass of wine and something delicious cooking in the kitchen is fast becoming my favourite part of the week.

It’s definitely comfort food’s time to shine. And I don’t know about you, but more than a few of my favourite comfort food recipes feature a beautifully cooked piece of meat. I really am a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore. I honestly don’t think I could be a vegetarian, I just love meat too much.

It’s a hard choice, but I think pork has to be my favourite of all the meats (duck comes a close second, of course). The pig is just incredibly versatile and so delicious in all it’s forms. A sentiment captured nicely by The Simpsons episode when Lisa becomes a vegetarian…

Homer: Are you saying you’re never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?

Lisa: No. 

Homer: Ham?

Lisa: No.

Homer: Pork chops?

Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal.

Homer: Ooooh yeah, right, Lisa! A wonderful, magical animal.

If pork is king, then the belly is definitely the jewel in the crown. With the flavoursome, melt-in-your-mouth meat against the salty, crunchy crackling, it’s a combo that’s hard to beat.

If there’s one thing my family loves, it’s a Sunday roast. Some of my favourite memories from living in Canberra are Sunday afternoons at my mum and stepdad’s house with my brothers, catching up over a vino relaxo and a delicious pork roast with all the trimmings and impossibly crispy crackling (my mum certainly has earned her illustrious title of ‘crackling queen’).

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While a full roast dinner will always be a Sunday staple, I just love these pork buns. They’re both rich and fresh-tasting at the same time. There’s a beautiful contrast of flavours and textures when you get a bite of everything together in one mouthful; the tender pork belly and the crispy crackling, paired with warm, fluffy buns, fresh cucumber, sticky hoisin and creamy mayonnaise. It is ridiculous.

The pork belly takes a little while in the oven, so it’s a good one for lazy Sundays. It’s not hard work, so once your prep’s done you can just chuck little porky in the oven and potter around in your slippers, checking it occasionally until it’s ready.

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The thing you really need to pay attention to is the crackling. There are a few schools of thought about how to get the crunchiest crackling. But in my experience, it’s a combination of five things:

1. Make sure the skin is properly scored (You can ask your butcher to do it for you when when you buy it).

2. Pour boiling water over the skin, then dry it well and leave it uncovered for a few hours or overnight before roasting.

3. Make sure you rub a decent amount of olive oil and sea salt into the skin.

4. Blast the pork belly in a very hot (220C fan-forced) for then first 30 mins, then turn the heat right down for the rest.

5. Remove the top layer of the skin at the end of roasting and put it under a hot grill to get seriously crunch crackling.

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I like to finish off these magical little buns of goodness with some spring onion and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. They’re a real crowd-pleaser and they’re more filling than they look (I can never finish more than two). But make sure you hand out a few napkins or it’ll look like there’s been a massacre.

Lazy Sunday pork buns recipe

Prep time: 15 mins

Cook time: 2 hours

Serves: 4

Ingredients

800g – 1kg piece of good quality pork belly (skin scored)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt flakes
8 white Chinese burger buns (bao) – available at asian grocers

To serve
1 cucumber, sliced into 1cm wide x 6cm sticks
3 spring onions (scallions) – green ends finely sliced
Hoisin sauce
Japanese mayonnaise (Kewpie)
Sesame seeds (lightly toasted)

Instructions

Pour two cups of boiling water over the pork (skin side up), then pat the whole thing with paper towel until it’s completely dry. This will make it crackle up nicely. Put onto a wire rack over a baking tray (skin side up) and keep uncovered in the fridge for two hours or overnight if you can.

Remove pork from fridge and preheat your oven to 220C (fan-forced). Let the pork sit for about 15 to 20 minutes until it’s at room temperature then put into the oven in its baking tray on the rack and cook for 20 minutes on the high heat.

Fill a couple of medium saucepans with a couple of inches of water sit your bamboo or metal steamers over the top (they should fit into the top of the saucepan snuggly – you can put two steamers one on top of the other over each saucepan if you have enough of them). Line the bottom of your steamer trays with a layer of grease proof paper and have the lids ready for when it’s time to steam your buns.

After 20 minutes on high heat, turn the oven down to 150C and roast for around 90 minutes or until tender and cooked through. You can test it to see if it’s ready by sticking a skewer into the meat and if it slides all the way in without resistance it should be ready. If you’re not sure you can make an incision with a sharp knife and check. The meat in the middle should be cooked all the way through and still slightly pink, but not red or bloody.

Remove pork from the oven and with a very sharp knife, carefully slice the top layer of crackling off. Put the pork on a plate or board and cover loosely with aluminium foil to rest while you finish the crackling and steam your buns.

Turn the grill onto medium-high heat and cut your crackling into strips about 6cm in length and 2cm wide with cooking scissors. Put the strips under the grill and keep a close eye on them (I usually leave the oven door open so I can check them easily as they grill). They should be turned once and will usually take around 5 minutes to crackle up nicely.

Meanwhile heat your water to a strong simmer and once your crackling’s out of the grill and resting on paper towel, put the buns into the steamers and pop the lids on. Steam for 2 minutes then turn them over and steam for a further 2 minutes. Remove from heat and leave in steamer to keep warm while you slice the pork belly.

Serve the buns, pork belly, crackling and condiments on separate plates so your guests can construct their own at the table, with some toasted sesame seeds for sprinkling on top. Then get stuck into these soft, crunchy, salty and sweet little bits of deliciousness. I bet you can’t stop at one.

What’s your favourite thing to cook on a cold, lazy Sunday?

As first published on Little Food Blog.

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Chrissy Dupé

Chrissy is a lover of lists and a self-confessed control freak. Her mission is to help other women with a strong need to be in control learn how to harness the power of their inner control freak and use it for good. Having lived through the devastation that being control freak without focus brings, and going out the other side stronger, Chrissy developed a series of hands-on, zero 'fluff' programs to help women control their freak, instead of letting it run them into the ground. Her philosophy is based on the little-known fact that control freaks are actually born for greatness... and that without them, the world would fall into disorganised chaos. You can find out more at www.controlyourfreak.com. More about the Author

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