Pork belly with rhubarb ketchup

by Rosie Birkett

A celebration of British seasonality from Rosie Birkett

The sherbety delights of bright pink rhubarb shouldn’t just be saved for dessert. I discovered this punchy, spiced rhubarb ketchup after inheriting a lovely full crown of rhubarb down on my allotment. After a glut last year, I filled many kilner jars with ketchup, served it at a supper club in autumn, added it to my Christmas and Boxing Day tables to go with roast meats and cold cuts, and it’s still going strong. The method of roasting the ingredients all together in one tray before pureeing couldn’t be easier, I really encourage you to give it a go. It’s so lovely with hot or cold roast pork, but could work well mixed with oil as a glaze for roasted chicken thighs or any other meat.

Read Jane Parkinson’s advice on the perfect wine pairing


For the pork belly:
2kg pork belly, ribs in, skin scored
3 tsp sea salt
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp dried red chilli flakes
1 tsp thyme leaves
1 apple, sliced
1 bulb of fennel, sliced
2 celery sticks, sliced
1 carrot, halved
2 white onions, skin on, halved (or 4 shallots, treated the same)
3 bay leaves
500ml chicken stock
1 glass of dry cider or white wine
1 tbsp plain flour

For the rhubarb ketchup:
500g pink forced rhubarb, sliced
2 shallots, peeled and halved
A thumb of ginger, sliced
100g caster sugar
120ml cider vinegar
1 orange, zest and juice
4 cardamom pods, seeds only
2 black peppercorns
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 star anise 


With a pestle and mortar, grind the salt, sugar, fennel seeds, chilli flakes and thyme leaves. Stab some slashes in the underside of your pork, then smear the salt mix all over it. Cure for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.

Remove the pork from the fridge 1 hour before you cook it, so it comes up to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 120C. Place the apple, fennel, celery, carrot, onions and bay in a roasting tray. Place the pork on top and roast for 5 hours. Remove from the oven, then turn the heat up to 200C. Pour the chicken stock and wine or cider into the tray around the pork, without touching the pork’s skin (you need it dry for nice crackling).

Line a roasting tray with greaseproof paper. Place the rhubarb, shallots and ginger in the tray and cover with the sugar. Pour over the vinegar, orange juice and zest and add the spices. Cover the tray with foil and place in the oven. Return the pork to the oven at the same time. Roast both trays for a further hour, in which time the pork skin should crackle and the rhubarb will cook down until tender. Remove both trays from the oven and place the pork on a platter to rest.

Make the rhubarb ketchup by removing the star anise and then blitzing the remaining tray contents, plus the apple and celery from the pork, in a food processor, until smooth. Taste for seasoning. It should be a nice balance of sharp, sweet and fruity, and a pretty soft pink colour.

To make the gravy, place the pork tin over a medium heat, drain any juices from the resting pork into the tray and scatter over the flour. Mash into the veg and liquid in the tray with the back of a wooden spoon, and stir until thickened, adding some boiling water to thin the gravy down to the right consistency. Season, then strain through a sieve into a warmed jug. Once the pork has rested, turn upside down and cut into squares. Serve with a dollop or smear of rhubarb ketchup, and some greens of your choice.

Recipe: Rosie Birkett
Images: Helen Cathcart