20 January 2011

The festival of 40 - marinated pork belly and strawberry cheesecake

As Queensland starts to slowly come back to some sort of semblance of normality...slowly...I have been working in the self-raising kitchen, but it has felt very wrong to write about it.

But, as a much wiser person than myself once stated, 'the show must go on'.

And this is exactly what me and six of my dearest friends decided when it came to making a decision about cancelling or continuing with a dinner party planned for my friend's, LL, 40th. The show - or the party in this case - must go on.

LL has been plagued by floods over the last three weeks after spending Christmas in Bundaberg (north of Brisbane) with her family to "relax" when the first flooding started in Queensland. Then, on her mission to get out of her birth town - which she did do - and get herself, her twins and husband safely back to Brisbane before the highway was cut off from flooding, Brisbane city started to flood. Is it you, LL???

Despite the flooding and trouble finding enough fresh food in the supermarkets, the evening began with much love, laughter and bubbles; with a slightly changed menu plan based on what food myself and my cooking partners, the great Mr & Mrs D, could buy; and...did I mention it had to be gluten free for the birthday girl! It was a wonderful start to LL's festival of forty weekend and a great way to spend with much loved friends.

The Menu
Homemade hummus, cheese and crackers
Chinese red roast pork belly with salad
Strawberry cheesecake with strawberries in ginger syrup

Chinese red roast pork belly
by Rick Stein, Far Eastern Odyssey

Chinese red roast pork belly
1kg pork belly
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1tsp finely grated fresh ginger
100ml dark soy sauce
2tbsp Chinese rice wine
1tbsp five-spice powder
2tsp natural red food colouring (I don't include this)

For the eight of us I used 1.5kg of pork belly and changed the recipe accordingly.
As the meal had to be gluten free I used a GF soy sauce (the brand was Spiral Foods). This isn't very dark so I added some pomegranate molasses I had in the cupboard to get that dark sweetness into the marinade.

Put the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, honey, rice wine, five-spice powder and red food colouring (if you're using it) into a shallow dish and mix together. Place the pork belly in the marinade with the skin facing up. Ensure the marinade covers all the flesh but don't get it on the skin. The skin needs to be kept dry so you can get crispy, crunchy, yummy crackling. Set dish aside in the fridge to marinate for at least eight hours, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Pierce the skin with a skewer or small sharp knife at about 3 cm intervals, then rub with a little olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. I roast the pork belly in the marinade, Rick suggests you place the pork on a rack over a roasting tin with water in it. You can choose your preferred method of cooking. Cook for about 2 hours depending on your oven.

I also turn the marinade into a sauce. Simply take the meat out, place your pan on the stove (or if it isn't stove top proof, place the marinade in fry pan) on a high heat. Add about a tablespoon of sugar and reduce to you have a thick sauce.

Now to get really good pork crackling - which for me is the BEST part of pork...I know I'm all about health - all you need to do is grill the skin once the meat is cooked. If it still isn't crackling, pierce the skin a few more times with a skewer or sharp knife. Perfect crackling is now yours.

Tasty pork belly with crispy, crunchy,
salty, delicious crackling....YUM!!!

Strawberry cheesecake with strawberry in ginger syrup
by Gourmet Traveller 2010 annual cookbook

Strawberry cheesecake with
strawberry in ginger syrup
I halve these ingredients as I find you have enough cheesecake mixture for two cakes
750g softened cream cheese
500g mascarpone
190g raw caster sugar
finely grated rind of 2 limes and juice of 1
4 eggs
300g sour cream
140g strawberries, coarsely chopped

Sweet ginger pastry
30g pure icing sugar, sieved
125g softened butter
125g plain flour - obviously being GF I used GF plain flour (the brand was White Wings)
2 tsp ground ginger

Strawberries in ginger syrup
300g raw caster sugar
2 tsp ginger, cut into julienne
juice of 2 limes
500g strawberries quartered

For the pastry, preheat oven to 150 degrees celsius. Beat icing sugar and butter in an electric mixer until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes), sieve over flour and ginger and stir to combine. Turn onto a work surface, bring together with the heel of your hand, roll out to 4mm thick and line the base of a 27cm-diameter, 5cm-deep fluted tart tin, trimming edges.
If you are using GF flour don't turn the mixture onto a work surface. Simply place it in the tin and work it around to cover the bottom.
Refrigerate to rest for 30 minutes, prick with a fork, blink bake until light golden, about 15 to 20 minutes. With the GF flour, don't put your cooking beads in, it doesn't need it, but it may need a little longer in the oven. Cool once cooked.

Lightly brush sides of tart tin with butter. Process cream cheese, mascarpone, 165g raw caster sugar, lime rind and lime juice in a food processor until smooth, scrape down sides of bowl then add 3 eggs, one at a time, processing to combine. Pour over pastry, bake until just set (40-45 minutes) and remove from oven.

Meanwhile, process sour cream, strawberries and remaining raw caster sugar in a food processor until smooth, add remaining egg and process to combine. Ladle over cheesecake and bake until just set (8-10 minutes). Cool, then refrigerate until completely chilled (4-5 hours)

For strawberries in ginger syrup, combine sugar and 250ml water in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to the simmer, add ginger, cook until ginger is translucent and liquid is reduced to a light syrup (5-6 minutes). Remove from heat, add lime juice and half the strawberries, refrigerate until chilled. Add remaining strawberries and serve spooned over cheesecake.

The strawberry and ginger syrup adds an incredible level of tastiness to this dessert, so don't miss it.

Happy birthday, LL!!


  1. Oooh looks fabulous! Your food always does!

  2. Indeed life goes on and as difficult as it seems in the beginning time heals the wounds. What a better way to celebrate the end of a terrible period of time than a birthday party. It looks like you had a lot of fun. I especially loved the cheesecake.

  3. I cant wait to try your pork belly recipe.I wouldnt use the food coloring too but a friend gave me the chinese five spice and Ive been looking for a recipe to use it with. This is perfect!