Photograph: Maja Smend
Preheat the oven to 240°C, (fan 220°C), 475°F, Gas Mark 9. Put the fennel and coriander seeds into a frying pan with no oil in it and cook on a medium heat for about 5 minutes until you start to smell the spices. Tip them into a pestle and mortar and add the garlic, sage, thyme, oil and salt and pepper. Then bash the mixture to a paste.
Lay the pork belly, skin-side down, on a clean board and spread the paste all over, leaving a 2cm margin around the sides (if you put it right to the edges it just tends to squish out when you roll it). Scatter over the apricot pieces and then place the pork belly with one of the long sides facing you. From this edge, roll it away from you to make a tight sausage roll. Then use kitchen string to tie it at regular intervals to secure it. There are elegant butcher ways of doing this tying-up thing, and there are ways that just get the job done, and getting the job done is fine. It does help if there is another pair of hands to help you as you roll it up, but it can be done with one pair of hands – it’s just a little bit more messy!
Sit a wire rack over or in a roasting tin and then put the pork on top of that, seam-side down. Season the pork with some more salt and pepper and place into the oven to cook for 20 minutes (it will need another 3 hours). I put the extractor fan on at this point as the smoke that comes from the oven is immense!
After the 20 minutes, which I like to call ‘the crackling stint’, turn the oven temperature down to 150°C, (fan 130°C), 300°F, Gas Mark 2 and just leave the joint to cook for another 3 hours. Remove the pork from the oven and leave to rest for 10–15 minutes. Snip and remove the string and, using a sharp knife, carefully cut into thick slices and serve.
This recipe is extracted from How to be a Better Cook by Lorraine Pascale (Harper Collins, £25)