This is a classic French peasant dish, in fact in 1664 King Henri 1V of France, decreed that every peasant should have a poule au pot (chicken in a pot) on Sundays.
Dishes like this are so damn delicious, not only are the vegetables sweet, succulent and juicy the meat is meltingly tender and then you get to sip away on the flavoursome, wholesome broth. It is one of those meals that makes you feel good when eaten and it always seems to be loved by the children (which is always reassuring).
You could substitute the pork for a whole chicken if desired. The vegetables can be varied due to what you like and don't and of course what is in season!
POT-AU-FEU OF BRAISED PORK BELLY
1.5 kg good quality belly of pork, boned and skin removed leaving a small amount of fat.
3 fresh sage leaves
3 litres water
4 carrots, peeled
6 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
1 bouquet garni - made with 2 bay leaves, 2 sage leaves, 1 rosemary sprig and 1 marjoram sprig, tied together.
2 celery sticks, cut into 7.5 cm lengths and tied together in a bundle
4 shallots, peeled but left whole
2 leeks, cut into 7.5 cm lengths
1/2 savoy cabbage, cut in 4, with the core left in to hold leaves together
4 medium potatoes, such as desiree, peeled and cut into quarters
a handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preparing the pork: Place the belly pork fat side down and season the flesh with pinches of salt and a pinch of pepper. Lay the sage leaves in a line along the centre, then take the thickest part of the belly and roll it up as tightly as possible. Tie the string around the belly tightly; repeat 5 or 6 times so the meat holds tightly.
Browning the meat: On a medium heat, in a large non stick frying pan, without oil or butter, fry the rolled pork belly for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown all over.
Braising the pork: Place the pork belly in a large casserole dish. Pour in the water, add 1 Tbsp of salt and bring to the boil over a high heat. With a ladle, skim off any impurities that rise to the surface. Lower the heat and cook on a gentle simmer for 1 hour. Fast cooking would make the meat very tough.
Cooking the vegetables: Add the carrots, garlic and bouquet garni and cook for a further 30 minutes. Then add all the remaining ingredients except for the parsley and cook for 1 hour longer, until the meat and vegetables are tender. Stir in the parsley, adjust the seasoning and serve with the vegetables on the bottom of a large dish and slice the pork and arrange on top. Pour over the broth and serve the large platter with all the goodies directly at the table.