Strawberry panna cotta and pork belly marinade

This week’s recipes are perfect for entertaining and to prepare in advance of a dinner party. I always get asked at the Cookery School what the most important ingredient of any dinner or lunch is and, besides taste and company, it is all about timing. We go through this on our effortless entertaining classes and show how to pull a three–course meal together with ease.

A well–made panna cotta is a great dessert for any lunch or dinner and is a super–efficient dessert for all seasons. Last year, we made it with honey, at the height of summer we made it with lemons and at this time of year it is great with the end–of–season strawberries or raspberries.

I have paired this with a pork belly, which is great as a main course when served with root vegetables, boiled season potatoes – and a knob of butter, of course.

This month sees the launch of Taste The Island, a celebration of all Irish food. A number of events and special menus are available to check out at Tastetheisland.com. I am also hosting two complimentary cookery school demonstrations showcasing some of my favourite Irish products. To book a place, have a look at our website Cookinbelfast.co.uk.

Strawberry panna cotta (serves six)

Strawberry Coulis ingredients:

200g strawberries

1 tbsp icing sugar

Panna cotta ingredients:

600ml cream

150ml milk

175g sugar

5 gelatin leaves

3 tbsp strawberry coulis



Start by making the coulis, you do not have to use all of this in this recipe but if you store this in the fridge in a sterile jar it can be used for other desserts.

Place the strawberries in a pan with the icing sugar on the heat and once they start to dissolve and burst mix them together, you can use a stick blender to blend. Do not over blend as you do not want the seeds to break up and the juice to get discoloured.

Pass through a fine sieve and remove all the seeds, keeping the juice. Once the coulis is made, soak the gelatin leaves cold water for 10 minutes before use.

Place the milk, cream and sugar in a pan and put on a gentle heat. Add in the softened gelatin to the mix and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and leave to cool.

Once cool, add in the coulis to taste. I am not a fan of anything too sweet, so 3 tbsp is enough for me, but taste and stir to your palette. Once mixed through pour the mix into moulds and set in the refrigerator.

If you want these perfect (as in no bubble at the top), use a blowtorch on the top to remove all bubbles before setting in the fridge. This will take 2 hours to set and can be done the night before.

You can serve this with a cornel of cream, mixed berries or both.

Pork Belly Marinade


1 kg pork belly

1 litre apple juice

80 ml soy sauce

3 inches’ ginger

20 parsley stalks

1 bulb garlic chopped

1/2 bottle white wine

4–star anise

1/2 tsp cumin

2 tbsp dried chilli flakes

4 tbsp honey

2 tbsp salt

3 bay leaves



Combine all ingredients and cover pork belly. Leave to marinade for 24 hours.

Pre–heat oven to 180C. Remove pork belly from marinade and leave to the side.

Place the pork belly in the oven on a roasting tray and cook for 12 minutes, then turn over in oven and cook for a further 8 minutes.

Remove the pork belly from the oven and leave to rest for 6 minutes. Slice thinly and serve.

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