Prune Stuffed Pork Belly. Maybe worth doing, maybe not?

Pork belly stuffed with prunes (7 of 10)

I don’t often do this. But, I’m not recommending that you cook this recipe. Don’t misconstrue me. It’s not a bad recipe. It’s a pretty tasty way to prepare pork. But, having sourced some prunes (I’m not at the stage of life where prunes are part of my regular diet) and after laying my hands on a slab of free range pork belly, I can’t really recommend it. But, where did it all go wrong?

Actually, it didn’t go wrong at all. It’s very easy to prepare and the end result is delicious. Let me tell you what I did then we can look at the lack of recommendation.  The ingredients list is numerically short but long on complementary flavour.

  • 2 kilo free range pork belly*
  • 2 teaspoons of 5 spice powder
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • A small amount of oil

* I recommend free range pork because it is infinitely tastier than the meat of the unfortunate factory bred variety. There is no argument about this. In my experience, the skin of free range pork crisps up far better too. It makes sense to go free range.

First, pour a kettle of boiling water over the skin of the pork. This tightens the skin which helps with the crisping.

Pork belly stuffed with prunes (2 of 10)

This is an inauspicious first step in the pork preparation.

Crisping is really important. Pat the pork dry. Get a sharp knife and make holes in the flesh between the ribs. As gently as possibly, squeeze prunes into the gaps.

Pork belly stuffed with prunes (3 of 10)

“Yes, I pushed the prunes in here.” It sounds like an admission of sorts.

Next, cut long slashes into the flesh in the same direction as the ribs. Season it on all sides with plenty of salt and pepper. Then rub the 5 spice powder into the flesh.

Pork belly stuffed with prunes (4 of 10)

These are lovely complementary ingredients.

The last thing to do before placing in the oven is to rub the skin side with a little oil.

Pork belly stuffed with prunes (6 of 10)

At this stage, you are wondering why I’m not recommending it.

Place the pork, on a rack, in a very hot oven (230ºC) for 20 minutes. Turn the heat down and roast it for a further 40 minutes at 200ºC.

Make a simple sauce by adding 200 ml of cider and ten or so prunes to a saucepan. Bring to the boil. Squash the prunes and reduce until thickened to gravy consistency. Put this through a sieve. It’s pretty tasty.

Pork belly stuffed with prunes (8 of 10)

A simple sauce of prunes and cider rounds off the deliciousness.

When the pork comes out of the oven, it will be dark (5 spice dark), crispy and it will smell delicious (concentrated prune sweetness delicious).

Pork belly stuffed with prunes (9 of 10)

Delicious, crispy, crunchy, sweet pork and prunes.

I served it with some creamed potatoes and mange tout. It was really, really tasty. The pork meat was tender and succulent, made sweet by the prunes. The crackling was as you would expect it to be. The sweet gravy was ideal and the whole thing worked perfectly. I’d almost recommend it…..

Pork belly stuffed with prunes (10 of 10)

Nearly good enough to recommend. Nearly, but not quite.

So what’s wrong with the pork and prunes?

Nothing. Nothing at all. It really is very tasty. I just feel that a good piece of pork belly is so delicious anyway that the marginal improvement of the extra expense (Have you seen the price of prunes!), and preparation (If you enjoy poking prunes into pork, then you have no place in a kitchen), is not worth the trouble.

In conclusion. Delicious, really delicious. But not delicious enough for me to really recommend you cook it. However, I don’t own you and you are probably capable of making your own decision. I won’t be upset if you do it.

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  • It does sound a bit, well, sticky. Perhaps one of those transactions where the reward is not quite sufficient for the labour involved. You are unenthusiastic about the prunes, that’s clear, so much so that you’ve omitted them from the ingredients list… 🙂

    • Hi Kate, My normal behaviour would be to rush to the recipe and fix that. I really am in two minds. However, the OCD in me is starting to gnaw away at my self confidence. Damn it! I’ll fix it now. I promise to never post a pork and prunes recipe again.

      • I think it was probably your subconscious telling you that prunes weren’t really needed to make the pork belly delicious… However, as I now actually have a pork belly in the freezer thanks to our regular purchase of a side of pork butchered to my specifications, and indeed a packet of prunes thanks to a very nice prune and almond tart from Rick Stein’s recipe, I shall probably try it… Probably. It depends how sticky I’m prepared to get 🙂

        • You are on your own there Kate me girl’. Incredible that of all 300+ recipes I’ve posted its the one I don’t recommend that you insist on doing.

          • Not true! I made the teryaki salmon, only I cooked the fish en papillote instead of grilling it. Plus I’m a bit of a sucker for recipes that feature meat and fruit together. Pork chops always have to have fried onion and apple. Beef with apricots. Chicken with lemon. Well, you get the idea.

          • I’m liking the approach.

  • The possibilities here for double entendres are riper than a plum harvest so I’ll confine myself to saying that I actually think it sounds very good. I’d kill for some of that crackling.

    • The crackling was cracking all right. I think I showed restraint over the potential for vulgarity. Probably because of a general lack of enthusiasm. I need to up my game!

  • I’ve stuffed many things into pork, but I never thought to try prunes. Aside from the fact that I agree about how pork belly can stand on its own so well, it’s almost (ALMOST) a waste to add a lot of extra flavors, this is intriguing enough to try!

    • Then look away! I have a fantastic sous vide pork belly recipe on the block. It is rammed with flavours (lemongrass, chilli, garlic, ginger, 5 spice) and I cook it skin off. The skin gets it separately. It’s a fantastic flavour punch of a dish. I really should have posted it instead of this. Damn those prunes.

  • Part of me is wondering if you are trying reverse psychology here. My thoughts could go round in circles all day now 🙂

    • Donna. I would never play such tricks on you. I think I was playing the tricks on myself. I didn’t need to do anything fancy to the pork belly to get a decent result. I usually add a bit of oil to the skin and lots of salt and pepper. That makes for a delicious feast. I suspect that I just wanted something post-worthy. I should be more imaginative.

      • I should have known better than to doubt you! I understand what you mean by post-worthy. Have to remind myself occasionally that simple is ok, which is a good thing really 🙂

  • Fun post! I really enjoy cooking quick recipes at the moment, so I should probably not prepare this dish 😉 Looks delicious anyway … honestly!

    • This didn’t take so long. It fed half a dozen of us too. Tasty, just not tasty enough!

  • This looks and sounds delicious!

    • Thanks Anne,
      Your kind comment spurs me onwards to do better in future!

  • It is absolutely delicious, I have eaten it but I haven’t had to go to the trouble of preparing it! Win win situation for me.

    • I know my posts are in trouble when my Mum comes to my rescue! Good to see one of us won out of this!

  • What if I’m an unapologetic prune poker? What if I own a gigantic pig farm, eat pork 5 times a week and need variety in the way I cook it? What if I’ve been left a legacy of 140 tins of prunes and need to do something with them? Or what if I’m the sort of person who lurks around the internet reading recipes they will probably never cook and the prune surprise is what brought me here? Hmmmmm?

    • Tara, I’ll do a deal with you. I will keep a close eye on the analytics for this post. If I find searches relating to “what do I do with a prune inheritance”, “too much pork, give me recipe ideas” or “how to poke a prune”, I will rewrite the post and publish an apology in the New York Times (print and digital editions). Does that satisfy your objections?
      On another note, the thought of what a ‘prune surprise’ might be had me sniggering like a 12 year old.

  • Pork and prunes – of course! Living alone, shall I cook it – no promises!! But ideas received, say using 5-spice on a smaller piece[s] and making that very simple sauce to add a mid-week yum flavour: certainly already planned and ‘thank you’ kind Sir !!

    • Excellent Eha. I suspect that something done with chops could be delicious and easy too.
      Hope you are well,
      Conor

  • Pork Belly is delicious and succulent roasted no matter how you embellish it, full stop, and yes it should be pork with provenence for the best result.

    • 100% with you on that. Wait ’til you see the sous vide version I will post over the next couple of weeks. It was awesome!

  • I’m with you on the recipe – there are certain items, especially ones not on my regular rotation, that stand in all their glory and I’m particular about how I flavor (or don’t) and cook them. A great steak, a good roast or fresh seafood. Others items that I cook all the time, like chicken, I’m always looking for ways to gussy up.

    Life’s too short to eat mediocre food, so if it doesn’t “wow” me or my family, and it’s not good enough to tinker with, I just move on…

  • Prunes are often, as you say, relegated to the ‘bowel health’ category (I work in a hospital and often see them, stewed to mush, in a little plastic cup on the breakfast trays) so for the sake of the sweet little disrespected dried plums, I’d say to everyone: MAKE THIS RECIPE. I do get your point though. Pork belly is so wonderful on its own, particularly with that glorious five spice crackling.

    • Thanks for the support Laura. Soon enough, I’ll be in the “prunes are part of my daily diet” brigade. So, this is a nice way of easing into it, if that term is not inappropriate.
      Best as ever,
      Conor

  • I agree, don’t fix what isn’t broken Conor!

  • That does look wonderful, Conor, and I still have memories of good pork crackling….which you have just revived:)

  • I find it interesting you use hot water to tighten the skin. As most ladies will tell you hot water and steam opens our skin and cold water tightens it. I wonder why the hot water works with the pork? I shall have to try that trick though. I do like crisp skin. 🙂

    • Virginia, I can not recommend pouring a kettle of boiling water on your face. It will do nothing for your looks, even if you want crispy skin!

  • There is no such thing as bad pork belly. 🙂

    • This is true Michelle. But there is a scale of wonderfulness.

  • I’m not much of a prune stuffer, Conor, but I do love cracklin’ and our tip about pouring hot water over the roast is one that I’ll be sure to employ. Thanks.

  • I will almost certainly not make this dish, but I am walking out the door right now to procure prunes just to make that sauce!

    • The sauce is so easy and pretty tasty too. That at least is worth doing.
      Best,
      Conor

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