This dish blew my mind. Not kidding. I made this, got so excited after my first mouthful, yelled out “FUAAAAAA” four times, then went and changed my pants. In that exact order.
The only thing that could’ve enhanced this experience is if my pork-belly-lovin’-lovers were here with me. Sophie, Laura and Tiff (see: our ChangGo death-by-pork experience) – you need to get your babin’ butts over here and into a bowl of this/my bed, right now.
I’m gearing up to spend most of my Melbourne winter weekends curled up in bed with a never-ending bowl of this soup, watching back-to-back episodes of Adventure Time. You could even hum Marcy’s and Simon’s Soup Hunting Song while you make this bad boy!
The addition of the lemon thyme at the end gives the dish an added zing that cuts through the heaviness of the soup and the fattiness of the pork. Having said that, the soup still has a lightness with the aniseed flavour of the fennel and the last pinch of cinnamon, and doesn’t seem as stodgy as a traditional potato-based soup. The tartness of the apple compliments the sweetness of the roasted garlic without either flavour overpowering the real heroes of the dish: the fennel and the soft, melt-in-the-mouth pork with salty, crunchy, golden-brown crackling.
This soup is entirely vegan, so all of the non-fun, non-pork-lovin’, vegetarian and vegan people can still have a cheeky taste if you eliminate dat meaty goodness.
Let’s get cracklin’!
Fennel, Roasted Garlic and Potato Soup with Crackling Pork Belly
2 brown onions, sliced thinly
2 fennel bulbs, sliced thinly
2 stalks celery, sliced thinly
1/2 bulb garlic
400g potatoes, peeled and diced into 2cm cubes
1 granny smith apple, peeled and diced into 2cm cubes
1 litre vegetable stock
2 stalks lemon thyme
2 teaspoons ground fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon olive oil
pinch of sea salt
extra lemon thyme, to garnish
1 teaspoon fried shallots, to garnish
600g pork belly
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
3 stalks celery
Preheat oven to highest possible temperature.
Finely score the skin of the pork belly and ensure that it is completely dry, patting with paper towel if required.
In a mortar and pestle, grind fennel seeds and salt until fine, before rubbing into the scored skin of the pork belly.
Place the pork in an oven tray, using the celery stalks to raise the meat from the base of the tray.
Roast the pork for 20-30 minutes until the skin puffs and turns into crackling. Reduce the heat to 170C and roast for a further hour until meat is soft.
At this stage if the crackling is still pale and not puffed up, place under a hot grill for a few minutes, watching carefully to ensure it does not burn.
While the pork is roasting, slice garlic bulb in half and place in oven until flesh is soft and caramelised. Remove garlic from skins.
Caramelise onions in olive oil on low-medium heat until softened and lightly coloured. Add fennel and celery and cook further until softened. Add in vegetable stock, 2 stalks lemon thyme, and diced potatoes and apples. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes until potatoes have softened.
Remove lemon thyme and season with salt, ground fennel, and cinnamon before using a hand blender to puree the soup.
Garnish with fennel tops, lemon thyme, extra fennel seeds, and fried shallots and serve with pork belly.