The ancient forests that covered the little hills of Monaghan were home to the sweetest wild boars in Ireland. They roamed free and consumed a healthy diet of nuts, wild mushrooms and berries which in turn made them succulent and delicious and the target of raids by hideous tribes from Connaught and Leinster. The people of Monaghan, led by the mighty Reamonn Ni Eachaidh had had enough and 3,000 years ago built the Black Pig’s Dyke along our southern border to keep the pigs in and the infidels out.
A few hundred years later Monaghan’s defences were breached by early Christian missionaries and one of them, St.Maeldoid decided that Castleblayney, much like today, needed salvation. And what better way to do that than by building a church. He promptly set about building a church on the shores of Lough Muckno, but every night all the building work that he had carried out that day was taken down stone by stone and moved across the lake. St.Maeldoid was more than a little fed up after the second week and decided to stay up all night to see what was happening to his daily labours. He couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw a giant black pig moving the stones from his wall and took it as a sign that he should build his church on the other side of the lake.
What St.Maeldoid didn’t realise was that had in fact been the descendants of the very same Reamonn Ni Eachaidh, now named Aughey that had been ‘liberating’ his stonework and moving across the lake at night to a staging post where they then moved it to Monaghan Town where they built a fine establishment in The Diamond which still stands today. The Augheys were fortunate to escape the wrath and retribution of the church and celebrated by having a feast….of roast pork.
Today the tradition continues and Porky’s restaurant above the Squealing Pig bar in The Diamond, Monaghan, features a the finest Pork Belly this side of the Black Pig’s Dyke.
Recipe - Pork's Pork Belly
1 kg pork belly, skin on and bones removed
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 l duck fat
Heat oven to 120 c. Empty the duck fat into a saucepan. Heat until it is liquid and starting to simmer. Ladle the fat over the pork; in a deep metal roasting tin add the rosemary, thyme and garlic.
Cover the top with tin foil and cook in oven for 8 hours.
When the 8 hours has passed removed the dish from the oven and leave it to settle for 10 minutes. Meanwhile , line a tray with a piece of grease-proof paper. Carefully lift the pork from the fat and pick off any herbs. Lay it on the paper, skin side down. Cut another piece of paper and lay it over the pork. Cover with a tray, weighed down with a couple of cans, and leave in the fridge overnight. This is to press the meat and the fat.
When you are ready to cook the pork, heat the oven to 180 c.
Remove the pork from the tray, then peel away the paper and cut to whatever size you wish for serving.
To cook the pork, heat a drizzle of oil in a large non-stick ovenproof pan. Lay the pork, skin side down. and leave for a few minutes to crackle, and place the pan in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and check to see that the skin has blistered, then carefully flip it over and cool the underside for 3 minutes just to heat through.
In the restaurant we serve it with a potato croquette, carrot puree and a roast gravy. It would be just as nice with some creamy mash potato and roast veg.