Pork belly, morcilla and black turtle bean braise (frijoles negros)

Karen Martini
Karen Martini's pork belly, morcilla and frijoles negros.
Karen Martini's pork belly, morcilla and frijoles negros. 

This is a deliciously rich braise of meltingly tender pork that's full of smoky, earthy notes from the dried chillies and spices. I cooked this recently in a friend's wood-fired oven, and the wood smoke subtly permeated the braise and just made it extra-special. If you can't find pasilla chillies you can substitute another dried chilli such as ancho or guajillo.


6 organic pork belly spareribs, cut in half

250g rock salt

400g black turtle beans, soaked overnight starting in hot water

80ml olive oil

1 large brown onion, finely diced

6 large garlic cloves, smashed, skin on

1/2 fennel bulb, diced

4 celery stalks, sliced

1 fresh bay leaf

150g morcilla sausage, sliced

2 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 1/2 tbsp ground cumin

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 star anise

2 tsp ground black pepper

30ml sherry vinegar

3 pasilla chillies, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes

1 1/2 tbsp dark brown sugar

200ml passata

1 litre quality chicken stock

salt flakes



1. Cover the pork belly in rock salt and set it aside for two hours. Shake off the salt and dry with paper towel - don't wash off the salt.

2. Add the soaked turtle beans to a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and immediately take them off the heat. Drain.

3. Heat the oven to 150C fan-forced or 170C conventional.

4. Add the oil to a wide-based, ovenproof pot over high heat. Add the pork and fry for about six minutes until golden. Remove from the pot and set aside - be careful, as the pork will spit hot fat.

5. Add the onion, garlic, fennel, celery and bay leaf to the pot and cook for 10 minutes. Add the morcilla and spices, stir and cook for one minute. Add the pork back to the pot and deglaze with the vinegar. Add the soaked chillies, sugar, passata, black beans, stock and 200 millilitres of water and bring to a simmer. Cover and place in the oven for two hours.

6. Remove from the oven and check that the beans are done and the pork belly is extremely tender. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve as is, or with rice and tortillas, and chipotle mayo on the side.


1. Quickly blanching the beans helps to start the cooking process, but just turn them off as soon as they come to the boil; you want them to take up the liquid and flavours of the braise rather than the cooking water.

2. Mix two-thirds mayonnaise with one-third salsa de chile chipotle as an optional accompaniment.

3. If you can't find morcilla, chorizo would also work well.