A seasonal staple at Château Evans, this almost effortless dish from Philippa Davenport, originally published in the Financial Times and kindly updated for us by the author, renders inexpensive belly rashers, rind and all, into melt-in-the-mouth luxury, merely by dint of three hours in a slow oven while you embrace the festive rush like a headless chicken. Bliss to come home to, and a complete treat with a glass of mature demi-sec or dryish moelleux Vouvray, though it will also work very well with a velvety, but not too heavy red.
Christmas Eve Pork
Cooking time 3½ hours
For 4-5 people, lay 1kg halved lean-end belly pork rashers (boneless but with rind on) in a single layer in a baking dish. Push 12 prunes into the gaps. Scatter generously with lemon thyme leaves, chopped coriander and parsley.
Add some crushed garlic, salt, pepper and a corner of a chicken stock cube, crumbled. Veil the meat with paper-thin slices of onion and pour on 1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar mixed with 300ml unsweetened grape juice. Cover tightly with oiled greaseproof and foil.
Put the dish in the oven and set the timer to switch on to 150C/Gas 3 to bake the pork in time for dinner. It will take three and a half hours but a little longer will not hurt. By then, it will be so tender that, as Philippa writes, 'even the toothless would rejoice in it.' Good accompaniments are mashed potatoes, and a salad of peppery leaves.
Janet Wynne Evans