Pork Crackling, Lemon and Fennel Meatballs

Pork Crackling Lemon and Fennel Meatballs

This isn’t a quick whip-me-up midweek supper I’m afraid but a bit more of a languid affair to begin on the Saturday then work your way across to the Sunday for a bounteous end of weekend supper. So then I’m not sure why I’m giving this recipe to you on a Tuesday but at least it gives you time to hunt and gather.

The most important ingredient in these meatballs is the addition of pork crackling. I’m sure that I read somewhere that this is how a famous chef makes his meatballs taste so good but I can’t find any residual reference of that so I might have just made it up. Nevertheless it adds texture, flavour and fat to these meatballs which are wonderfully succulent, meaty, fresh with lemon and bright with fennel. You simply must save some crisp crackling for sprinkling over the top as well for added umami crunch.

I bought 1 kilo of pork skin, even though only 300g is really needed for the recipe. I then cooked all of the pork skin by boiling it up to soften it and after that portioned out the amount I needed for the recipe, cutting up the rest to put in the freezer, ready for frying up into crackling snacks at a later date. You never know when the urge is going to hit so it’s best to be prepared.

Pork Crackling Lemon and Fennel Meatballs

I ummed and ahhed over how to serve my meatballs; in a sauce not in a sauce. Then once I had decided on that I wondered if they would be best accompanied with an Italian-American inspired marinara sauce. However, at the weekend we had a bit of a trip to Ikea, now I have never eaten their meatballs but you can’t help but be deluged with the images as you are wandering, rather painfully, around the labyrinthine warehouse. Can you imagine I only went to buy candles and napkins and I think we ended up in this other dimension for about two or three hours. Nothing like wasting your weekend away. Anyway, since everyone waxes lyrical about these meatballs I always mean to try them, but without fail by the end of my shopping trip and an hour long queue to buy a few measly items I just want to get the hell out and the idea of meatballs falls by the wayside.

So, when I was researching the gravy these mythic Ikea meatballs came to mind and I sought inspiration from Swedish meatballs, although since I’m no expert I certainly have no idea if this gravy tastes remotely like anything Ikea (or any Swedish recipe) offers. I just liked the idea of a simple gravy, imbued with the intense flavour of good stock, a bit of redcurrant jelly for sweetness and then finished off with the creamy tang of crème fraiche. The gravy compliments the unctuous meatballs perfectly. They have so much flavour packed in that I just wanted the gravy to nest the meatballs not create a swimming pool for them, so don’t expect more than a couple of spoonfuls of sauce per serving.

Pork Crackling Lemon and Fennel Meatballs

These meatballs are rich so I found that just to accompany them with a bowl of steamed greens and carrots was plenty but by all means I can only imagine the possibilities if you would like to serve these with a prodigious mound of mashed potato.

Today this recipe seems a perfect fit for the wintry weather we are experiencing and I can think of nothing better than sitting down cosily later with a bowl of hot creamy meatballs whilst gazing upon the blanket of snow currently covering North London.

Pork Crackling Lemon and Fennel Meatballs

Pork Crackling Lemon and Fennel Meatballs
Makes about 16 meatballs

300g pork skin or organic free range pork scratchings
60g ground almonds (or almond pulp from making homemade almond milk)
60ml milk (or water or veg stock)
1 onion, finely diced
2 teaspoons butter
500g pork mince
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
Zest ½ lemon
2 cloves garlic, crushed
25g parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sweet rice flour
450ml chicken stock
½ teaspoon redcurrant jelly
150ml crème fraiche

Homemade Pork Crackling

Day 1:

  1. If you are making your own pork crackling then the day before you want to eat your meatballs, prepare your pork skin by rubbing all over with plenty of salt and pepper.
  2. Place the skin in a wide saucepan and just cover with water. Bring to a gentle boil then put the lid on a leave to simmer for about an hour and a half.
  3. Remove the pork skin from the water and pat dry. Leave to cool before refrigerating overnight to completely chill.

Day 2:

  1. The next day finish your pork crackling. Slice the pork skin into strips. Then heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a wide bottomed saucepan and when hot, place the pork skin into it. As the skin turns into crackling it will spit a lot so clear the sides of anything you don’t want covered in oil and stand back. Fry for about 10 minutes on the first side and 3-4 minutes on the other side. Remove with a slotted spoon and leave to cool if you are very restrained. Then chop finely. Reserve the fat in the pan for making the meatballs in a minute.


  1. Mix the ground almonds with the whole milk then cover and refrigerate overnight. If you are using almond pulp then you do not need to do this step.
  2. Place the diced onions in a medium saucepan with the butter and cook on a very low heat for about 20 minutes to half an hour until the onions are soft, golden and melting. Leave to chill in the fridge until completely cool.
  3. Mix the pork mince in a large bowl with the soaked almonds, caramelised onions, fennel seeds, lemon zest, garlic, parsley, thyme, about two-thirds of the pork crackling and an egg. Season then mix thoroughly with your hands until completely combined.
  4. Shape into balls, about 50g each and heat the pan with either 2 tablespoons pork fat or olive oil. When hot, drop your meatballs into the pan and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side.
  5. Remove the meatballs and set aside. Then remove most of the fat, leaving about 2 tablespoons. Carry on heating on a low heat and add the sweet rice flour, mixing into the fat so that it turns into a smooth roux.
  6. Slowly add the stock, whisking into the roux until it’s all combined. Keep whisking as the sauce begins to bubble. Taste for seasoning.
  7. Add the redcurrant jelly and whisk through. Then add the crème fraiche and whisk into the sauce so it becomes thinner and smoother. Again, taste for seasoning.
  8. Place the meatballs back into the pan and coat thoroughly with the sauce. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until they are piping hot then remove from the heat.
  9. Serve the meatballs with the gravy and plenty of parsley and the rest of the pork crackling sprinkled over the top.


  1. How beautiful! I can’t wait to make these. Sounds perfect with steamed greens.

  2. Hi
    Your meatballs look great
    You dont say what to do with the caramelised onions and the soaked almonds. Do they go in with the minced pork?
    Thank you for posting

    • Hi Anna, you are right I forgot to say but yes you do add them in with the minced pork. I have just amended the recipe to reflect this. Thanks for your comments!


  1. […] A delicious substitute for breadcrumbs in meatloaves or meatballs like in the below Pork Crackling Lemon Fennel Meatballs. […]

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