I have been lucky enough to travel through the Black Sea many times, during the USSR era and after, eating at restaurants in the region and the noticeable difference in available food!
I can’t believe I haven’t shared this recipe before!! We made it last weekend, while we snuggled up and watched movies! It’s so lovely to have the aromas floating around and then still in my PJs, going to the kitchen to help myself!
After the end of communism, the changes were profound! Austerity changed to branded stores, but the food remained essentially the same, but as mentioned previously, more availability.
The area lends itself to more comforting food. Think hearty with big flavours!
WINE NOTE: Wine production in this area, of course goes back many years with Georgia being the first country to produce wine. Modern day wine production is flourishing in this area, with exports of some high quality wines made from indigenous grapes and wonderful vintages. The wine that was paired with this dish is the Grasavina which hails from Croatia. It generally has peachy qualities and holds its own to the earthy spices in this dish.
The original recipe is by Olia Hercules who is a wonderful writer of cookbooks, highlighting the fantastic food and flavours of that region. Here is the link to her original recipe;
However, I adapted this recipe to cook in the crockpot/slowcooker, as although simple to prepare, it requires several hours to cook and putting it in the crockpot gives me more freedom to go for a walk while it is cooking, or settle down to a movie without feeling I have to go check the stove! The ingredients stay the same, except I don’t worry abut the watercress if it is just for a lazy Sunday!
For the pork belly
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 20g/¾oz ginger, peeled and finely grated
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- grated fresh nutmeg
- ¼ tsp cloves
- sea salt
- 1.5kg/3lb 5oz good quality belly pork
For the cabbage
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 400g/14oz home-made sour cabbage (or good-quality saurkraut)
- 100g/3½oz prunes, pitted and roughly chopped
- 50g/1¾oz dried apricots, chopped
- 2 tsp caraway seeds
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 4 cardamom pods, seeds crushed, pods discarded
- 2 green apples, cored and thinly sliced
To serve (optional)
- 6 brioche buns
Mix all of the pork ingredients together and rub the meat with it. Leave to marinade, covered, for as long as you have the time – from 1 hour to one day (in the fridge).
Warm the crockpot and place the marinated porkbelly in and leave to cook on low for 3-4 hours. Meanwhile for the cabbage heat a dry frying pan and add the caraway, coriander and fennel seeds. Cook for a minute until lightly toasted, then crush in a pestle and mortar.
Heat the oil in a pan and cook the onions until starting to colour. Add the sour cabbage, dried fruit, caraway, coriander, fennel and cardamom and cook for 5 minutes. Finally stir through the apples.
After 3-4 hours, lift the pork belly with tongs and place the cabbage mixture in the crockpot and lay the pork belly over it and replace the lid and cook for a further 3-4 hours on low.
When ready to serve, pull the pork into shreds and serve in brioche buns with the cabbage mixture.