Last summer was a hot one and avoid the cities and stay near the beaches where most of my friends and family are, anyways. Once the temperatures get cooler, the evenings longer – that’s when it’s time to head into the city and explore without sweating off half your body weight.
September is a wonderful time of year to visit Greece – less tourists, cheaper airfares and hotels and better service. This the period I use to wander and discover more hidden gems in Thessaloniki and last year I found one right under everyone’s nose – near the Kamara.
The Arch of Galerius (Kamara) was built in the early 4th century AD and commissioned by then Roman Emperor Galerius. Today, the Kamara remains one of Thessaloniki’s most recognized landmarks (second only to the White Tower) and thousands of rendezvous have been arranged here.
Got a date? Meet in front of the Kamara. Arranged to take an out of towner for a tour of the city? Meet at the Kamara. Friends/parea from all over the city need a meeting point? Kamara!
I found myself waiting around the Kamara and just to the left of the arch did I find this corner eatery on Egnatia called Dia Xoipos. As you can guess from the name of the shop, these guys specialize in pork from souvlakia to kontosouvli, there’s some chicken through in there too!
What attracted me to this shop is the tied and rolled meats that were slowly roasting in their rotisserie: classic pork kontosouvli, beef and a tied and rolled pork belly that I just had to try!
The fellas at Dia Xoipos called it Ellasonitiko (from Ellassona, Thessaly) and today I’m going to share with you my version. You will need a whole side of pork belly (about 15 -17lbs) with the rind/skin on, some butcher’s twine, herbs, spices, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, sea salt, ground pepper and lots of time. Lots of time. This recipe requires that you prep 3 days in advance – mostly for ensuring crisp crackling.
I recently was given some wonderful Prince Edward Island (PEI) pork from friend and butcher, Rob Brady of Brady meats in Waterloo, Ontario. The quality of meats at Brady’s is never questioned, the butchering…impeccable!
The joy in eating this meet is the juicy, flavourful meat contrasted with the crisp, crackling that you are rewarded with after treating this wonderful piece of meat with tender loving care. Make no mistake, pork belly does contain alot of fat but much of renders, leaving you with a delicious, moist meat and crisp crackling.
Ellasonitiko (Slow-Roasted Pork-Belly With Crackling)
(makes 25 servings)
1 whole pork belly (approx. 15-17lbs)
fine sea salt
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 Tbsp. fennel seeds, crushed
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds, crushed
sea salt & fresh ground pepper
3-4 Tbsp. of finely chopped fresh rosemary
3-4 Tbsp of fresh thyme leaves
2-3 tsp. sweet paprika
12-15 cloves of garlic, smashed
- Get a kettle of water boiling and place a wire rack over a sink and place your belly on the rack. Once the water is aboil, pour it over the skin of the belly then pat-dry (this step helps crisp the skin). Score the skin with a very sharp knife and set aside.
- In the meantime, add your sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor and pulse until the sun-dried tomatoes are chopped into small pieces.
- Coarsely crush your fennel and coriander seeds with a rolling pin, heavy bottomed pot or spice grinder and set aside. Flip your pork belly to expose the inside and season generously with sea salt, ground pepper and now sprinkle the fennel, coriander, rosemary and thyme and paprika smear in the minced garlic.
- Now lay the chopped sundried tomatoes lengthwise along the center of the belly. Roll-up the belly and tightly tie-up the pork belly. Place on a wire rack over a baking tray and place in a fridge uncovered for 3 days (the dry air of the fridge will again help crisp the skin later).
- On the third day, take your pork belly out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Pre-heat your oven 450F and position the rack in the upper-middle of the oven.
- Rub the outside of your pork belly with olive oil and generously sprinkle with sea salt and rub into skin (and cracks). When your oven reached 450F, place the pork belly in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes or until you see the ski crisp, bubble and crackling has formed.
- Remove the pork belly, lower your rack to the middle of the oven and lower the heat to 300F. Slow roast your pork belly for 4-5 hours, occasionally draining off the fat from the roasting pan (allows for a dryer roast).
- Remove from the oven, allow to cool uncovered for at least an hour before slicing. Serve with Greek fries or roasted Greek potatoes. Pair with a Kechbari Savatiano-roditis restina.
. All rights reserved.