Pork hocks with cider, honey, star anise and Sichuan pepper

Rock the hock for an easy feast.
Rock the hock for an easy feast. Photo: Bonnie Savage

Pork loves soy, chilli and Asian spices. The richness of the meat and the fat stand up so well to the strong flavours and they in turn really help to balance their intensity. This is an easy dinner party dish that will feed a packed table. I like to serve it with some Chinese pickles for a sharp and punchy contrast, or a simple chilled cucumber, coriander and sesame salad would also work well.

Ingredients

extra-virgin olive oil

8 large shallots, peeled and cut in half

10 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

3 celery stalks, finely sliced

salt flakes

3 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns

4 star anise

2 tsp allspice berries, roughly ground

2 x 1-1.2kg raw pork hocks

2 fresh bay leaves

1/2 cup honey

100ml light soy

750ml sweet alcoholic cider

*800ml double chicken stock

4 small dried chillies

To serve: Rice, some steamed Chinese greens, a handful of coriander and some chilli on the side.

* By double chicken stock I mean a stock made by simmering roasted chicken bones or wings in white chicken stock to make a deeply flavoured golden stock. This is a classic technique, and one not everyone probably wants to put themselves through, so any intense chicken stock would do.

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 170C fan-forced or 190C conventional.

2. Heat a large, ovenproof saucepan over medium heat and add a splash of oil. Add the shallots, garlic and celery, season and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes. Add the Sichuan peppercorns, star anise and allspice and cook for one minute. Add the hocks, bay leaves, honey, soy, cider, stock and chillies to the pan and simmer for five minutes. Cover and place in the oven for two hours.

3. After two hours, remove the hocks from the pan. Add about half the braising vegetables and a little of the liquid to a baking dish, place the hocks on top of the vegetables and roast for about 30 minutes. The hocks are cooked when the meat is just pulling away from the bone.

4.  Strain the remaining braising liquid into a saucepan and reduce by about three-quarters. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

5. After 30 minutes, baste the hocks with a little of the reduced liquor and turn the oven up to 200C fan-forced or 220C conventional. Roast for a further 10 minutes until caramelised.

6. Serve as is with the liquor on the side, or shred the meat and some skin and stir back through the pan juices.

Tips

1. You could even try lamb shanks for this, but use large ones.

2. Leftover hock meat is great for a congee or in fried rice.

3. Shred any leftover meat, mix through the sauce and use to fill steamed bao (available at Asian grocers).