“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.
You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
That Lord of the Rings quote pops into my head when I pause the day for a moment, and realise we’re already at the start of August 2012. How did we get here so fast?! I feel like I’ve been swept through this year, and I need to press pause on the clock while I find my own feet.
The first half of this year has been so busy because, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned at least once, we moved into our apartment in March. Most other parts of my life took a backseat to the stress of exchanging contracts just days before last Christmas, waiting 3 months for settlement, finding our routine in mortgage world, and making our new place a home. But we are loving it here!
I have also been far more budget-conscious this year, and am therefore dining out less. However, I’ve still dined in some wonderful restaurants… I just haven’t blogged them. My mind has been focused on home, and I have been focused on recipe posts.
It was only after I’d looked back through my small number of blog posts this year, that I realised I’d only written one post about a restaurant. One restaurant post in six months, and that one post was about our anniversary from October last year. Shocking.
I’d like to amend this blogging oversight immediately, as I have experienced some wonderful dining out experiences lately; starting with a pork cooking class and lunch at Restaurant Atelier.
Ask me to attempt a Masterchef Bombe Alaska and I wouldn’t hesitate to say yes with glee, but ask me to cook a roast pork with crackling, and I will politely decline out of fear.
I am far more comfortable cooking desserts than I am cooking most meaty dishes. When it comes to cooking larger cuts of meat, I usually try to pass the duties to Paul. I believe I have cooked roast pork just once in my life, only late last year, and drove myself into a tizzy trying to research the best way to get that perfect crackling (it turned out nice, but not awesome).
When I read about Restaurant Atelier’s Porkfest cooking class / #twEATup (a Twitter-user based social food event, though non-twits are also welcome), organised by Karen (aka Vanity Fare), I knew that attending would give me some much-needed knowledge to cook my most favourite meat – pork.
Chef and Owner, Darren Templeman
Restaurant Atelier is a modern French restaurant in Glebe, owned by Chef Darren Templeman and his wife Bernadette (front of house). The class I attended in May was the second of its kind, with a third held last month, and more due to be held the rest of the year.
The day ($140pp) included a cooking demonstration of 3 pork recipes, and the recipes themselves, tasting morsels, a generous lunch feast, and a take-home goody bag with pork confit and belly to test our new knowledge on.
Darren’s class style is very relaxed and open, and he was happy to answer any questions we had. Our class was fairly quiet on the questions-front; I think we were all in awe of the pork we were watching and sampling.
I did take notes on the many interesting things we learned that day, but unfortunately my notebook
was accidentally thrown out by Paul has gone missing. However, I had the recipes resent to me, and Darren was generous to allow me to share them here.
Deep Fried Pork Belly Bite
The first pork recipe we were shown was Pork Belly Confit.
Confit, essentially slow-cooking meat submerged in fat, is not for the calorie-conscious. Pork belly confit is 100% indulgent and completely wonderful; tender, succulent pork belly meat, a soft fatty layer, and a crunchy top of salty crackling.
Pork belly confit isn’t as difficult to cook as I’d thought, it just requires a bit of looking the other way when covering the fatty pork belly with more fat
When it came to cooking the piece of confit from my goody bag at home, I burnt it. I blame my frying pan.
Pork Belly Confit (recipe by Darren Templeman)
- 1 piece of pork belly
- Pork or duck fat, to cover
- Place pork belly in a deep dish and cover with fat. Cover with aluminium foil, and cook slowly at 140˚C for 5 hours.
- Once the pork is very soft to touch, allow to cool in the fat to room temperature.
- When cooled, remove from fat and place on a tray lined with cling film, and cover the pork with cling film. Place a 2nd tray on top of pork. Place a weight on the tray – approx 2kg, to ‘press’ the pork. Place in fridge overnight with the weight still on top.
- Remove weight and cling film. Cut pork into desired pieces.
- Gently heat a non-stick pan, add a splash of olive oil. Place pork, skin-down, in the pan and cook until crispy.
- Turn pork over, add a little butter to finish. Drain pork and season with sea salt.
The pork skin bubble is similar to a prawn cracker in texture. It is fun to watch being made, and is a clever snack, but I have a confession: there’s a part of me that generally dislikes deep-fried food (hot chips excepted).
Pork Skin ‘Bubble’ (recipe by Darren Templeman)
- 1 piece of pork rind
- Place pork rind in a pot of cold water, to cover, and bring to the boil. Gently simmer for 1 ½ – 2 hours, topping up water if required.
- When pork rind is tender, allow to cool in water. Remove rind from water, and gently remove any fat from the rind.
- Place on a wire rack, and leave overnight (8 hours) in the oven at 65˚C to dehydrate the rind.
- Remove rind from oven – it will be like a very crisp piece of leather!
- Break into smaller pieces and deep fry (at 180˚C). The rind will puff up like a prawn cracker. Season and serve.
Victorious pork bubble!
Finally, we have the crispy roast pork belly. Darren’s pork belly crackling was so crackly that when I bit into it and chewed, I couldn’t hear anything but the sound of the crackling crunching. Bliss.
I’d always read that for the best crackling you need to score the rind. I even bought a Stanley knife just to score pork rind. Darren has a different method, and a method, I’m happy to say, that produced my own crunchy crackling on my pork piece at home!
It’s a bit of a process, starting the day before, but if you’re going to go to the effort of roasting pork in the first place, you may as well do it properly for the best results.
Crispy Roast Pork Belly (recipe by Darren Templeman)
- 1kg pork belly, boneless
- 100g sea salt
- 15g crushed peppercorns
- 3 star anise
- ½ bunch fresh thyme
- Rice bran oil, canola oil, or oil spray
- Dry pork belly from any excess moisture and place on a shallow tray, skin-side up.
- Roughly chop fresh thyme. Crush together peppercorns and star anise. Mix in the salt and add thyme.
- Rub salt mixture all over the skin of the pork belly and leave to cure overnight, uncovered, in the fridge.
- Preheat oven to 220˚C. Remove pork from salt cure, wash off any excess salt and pat dry.
- On an oven tray lined with greaseproof paper, place pork skin-side up. Rub the skin well with oil.
- Place the pork in the oven and roast for 15 minutes at 220˚C. Reduce heat to 180˚C and continue roasting for another 1 hour 45 minutes.
- Remove the pork from the oven. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Slice and serve. Serves 4 – 6 people.
Pork belly salt mixture
Magnificent pork crackling
The demonstration over, it was time to take our seats in the dining room for the feast. And what a feast it was! Darren and his team joined us at the table for slow-roasted pork forequarter so tender it merely needed a nudge with the butter knife, crackling that shattered, a rich, silky jus, fresh salad, creamy, cheesy mash, meaty mushrooms, breads, Pepe Saya butter, house-made olive tapenade, flowing wine, and dessert with pop rocks.
Our lunch felt like a gathering of friends for a long Sunday lunch, though most of us were strangers at the start. I had such a wonderful day, thanks to Darren and Bernadette’s generosity and warmth; you can’t help feeling at home in their restaurant, which is a rare thing.
Slow roasted pork forequarter – butter knives were the only knives needed
Dani from Innocent Catering brought her homemade Pina Colada marshmallows!
Some of Darren’s future cooking demo/lunches will feature beef and duck; follow Darren on Twitter to stay notified.
Note: I paid for my spot at this class/lunch, and am mentioning their promotions just because I love the restaurant.
22 Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW
Phone: 61 2 9566 2112
Dinner, Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm