Lesego Semenya's sumptuous pork belly phyllo basket recipe

2018-12-09 14:46

Renowned chef Lesego Semenya, better known as LesDaChef, has released his highly anticipated cookbook Dijo, an affirmation of South African cuisine, its heritage and its unique flavours.

There are few proteins that garner as much support and hero worship – and as much controversy and disdain – as pork. There are entire websites dedicated to bacon and spare ribs, and there are few things more awesome than bacon on a Sunday morning when you are nursing a hangover. Or bacon burgers and rib sandwiches. What could be better?

For some reason, pork belly – a rather simple cut of meat – seems to be one of the hardest to cook. You overcook it, and the skin on the outside gets tough and chewy. Undercook it, and you’re stuck with an overly fatty piece of meat that looks unappealing.

There are many ways to cook pork belly – some love the outside crackling crispy and crunchy – but this recipe is for a soft and sticky belly.

You can achieve a crispy crackling by raising the temperature of the oven to its maximum for 10 minutes at the end of the cooking period. I don’t do this, though, because it often burns the sugar in the honey and the final product may come out tasting bitter.

The quantities given here should be read as a rough guide because each pork belly is different in size, weight, and amount of meat and fat. So, use your discretion.

I used to tie the pork belly with thick rope (called trussing), but if you fold the belly correctly, you won’t need to do this. It’s a bit of a schlep to untie once the belly is cooked.


2 cloves garlic, freshly crushed

1 handful of fresh rosemary

1 handful of fresh thyme

500ml honey

225g whole grain mustard

1 T Dijon mustard

¼ cup olive oil

2 tbsp hoisin sauce

2 tbsp teriyaki sauce

1 tsp coarse sea salt

1 tsp crushed pepper

1 pork belly

1 box phyllo pastry, defrosted

125g butter


Chop the garlic and herbs. Add the honey, mustards, oil, sauces, salt and pepper to the garlic and herb mix. Combine well.

Flatten the pork belly and, with a sharp knife, cut gashes into the fatty side. Rub the mixture into the skin and meat on both sides. Let the belly rest in the marinade/rub overnight or for 12 hours, minimum. Heat the oven to 220°C.

Fold the belly into a log, skin on the outside. You can choose to tie it with rope or, like I do, simply keep the folded end down and press the belly down. Just make sure it’s tightly folded. It shouldn’t unravel as it cooks, but it isn’t a train smash if it does unless you’re a chef and you’re trying to go for presentation.

Grill in the oven (have the top element on) for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and sticky on the outside. Don’t worry if it looks underdone – pork can still be slightly pink and it will carry on cooking out of the oven in its own heat. Don’t overcook it. If you’re really worried that it’s underdone, wrap it in foil and seal it in a casserole dish. Its own heat will finish cooking it. Cut the belly into cubes.

Melt the butter in a pan and drape the phyllo pastry out on a worktable. Brush one sheet with the butter and drape another on it. Brush the top sheet with more butter. Cut the phyllo into equal squares of about
15cm x 15cm. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Spray a muffin tray with nonstick spray and line each muffin cup with the phyllo pastry. Bake until golden. Remove the baskets from the oven and fill each one with the cubed pork. Serve.

Dijo – My Food, My Journey by Lesego Semenya is published by Jacana Media. The cookbook is available for R249 at

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September 15 2019