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Danish roast pork with pickled prunes and sweet cucumber

Serves 6-8roast pork sweet pickled cucumber prunes and cinnamon stick

This was the first dish I ever ate in Scandinavia. I’d just arrived – very late – from the airport, there was a blizzard outside and this was brought on a candlelit tray by room service in my Copenhagen hotel. What an introduction.


Ingredients

for the pork

  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • flaked sea salt and pepper
  • sunflower oil
  • 1.5kg (3lb 5oz) pork belly, rind scored in a diamond pattern
  • 600ml (1 pint) dry white wine

For the pickled prunes

  • 250ml (9fl oz) white wine vinegar
  • 300g (10 ½oz) caster sugar
  • 1 stick cinnamon, broken
  • 6 juniper berries, crushed
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 2 cloves
  • 500g (1lb 2oz) prunes (good-quality unpitted)

For the cucumber

  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 3 tsp flaked sea salt
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh dill

Method

  1. Make the prunes at least a day ahead. Heat the wine vinegar with the sugar and spices, stirring a little to help the sugar melt. Once it has melted, boil until the liquid has reduced by a third and is quite syrupy. Put the prunes in a sterilized preserving jar (wash it in boiling water and then leave in a low oven for 15 minutes) and pour over the syrup. Cover and leave to plump up.
  2. For the pickled cucumber, cut the ends off the cucumber and slice very finely. The slices should be almost transparent. Layer in a colander with the salt, place a plate on top and set over a bowl so that the cucumber juices can run out. Leave for a couple of hours. Mix the cucumber with the rest of the ingredients and keep, covered, until you are ready to serve. (I sometimes skip the salting if I’m in a hurry, in which case you should mix the sliced cucumber with the vinegar and flavourings and serve immediately. It’s not as good but it’s better than not having them at all).
  3. For the pork, crush the spices with some salt in a mortar. Add 2 tbsp oil, then rub this all over the flesh of the pork. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 220°c/425°f/gas mark 7. Rub the skin of the pork outside with more oil, then season all over with salt and pepper, pressing the salt flakes into the skin. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  5. Pour half the white wine around the pork and reduce the heat to 170°c/325°f/gas mark 3. Cook for a further 1 ½ hours, pouring the rest of the wine round the joint about half an hour before the end of cooking time. Take the pork out of the oven, cover with foil, insulate well and leave to rest for about 15 minutes. Carve and serve with the cooking juices and pickles.

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