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BY TARA COUMBE / @FOODIEFROMGIB

F

rom our Italian travels, one dish that stuck with us is Italian porchetta. Whilst the authentic version usually involves stuffing and rolling up a whole pig, we usually make a simplified, all pork-belly version. Apart from being moist and juicy throughout, its also a lot easier to fit into a standard oven than a whole hog!

Porchetta is essentially a rolled up pork roast stuffed with herbs and aromatics. Half the job is making sure you start off with the right piece of meat. You’ll need a rectangular piece of boneless pork belly; speak to the butcher to cut out any bones if necessary. Also, you will want a fairly large piece given you will be rolling it onto itself.  The recipe below is for half a whole pork belly; if using a larger piece, be conscious of the herbs and aromatic proportions. 

Most of the hard work is done the night before cooking when preparing the porchetta. 

(Serves 4-6 people.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 piece of boneless pork belly (skin on) weighing about 3kg (half a whole belly piece);
  • 8 garlic cloves (minced or grated);
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary 
  • 2 tablespoons fennel pollen (substitute fennel seeds if you cannot find pollen)
  • 1/2 tablespoon peperoncini/ red pepper flakes
  • Grated zest of 1/2 lemon or 1/2 orange
  • Glug of dry white wine (optional)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Salt 
  • Butcher string

Method:

1. Lay out the pork belly skin side down on a large surface. With a sharp knife, score the flesh in a cris-cross fashion to create pockets for the rub to get into. 

2. In a bowl, combine the garlic, rosemary, fennel pollen (or seeds), red pepper flakes and lemon zest to create a rub. Mix this together well or mash together in a pestle and mortar. Loosen the mixture with a glug of white wine (and/or some lemon juice or olive oil). 

3. Rub the herb and spice mixture into the meat with your hands, ensuring that it goes dees into the scored flesh. Season the pork very generously with salt and pepper.

4. Time to assemble. Roll up the belly lengthwise with the skin on the outside to create a tight log. Ideally the two ends of the rind should just about meet each other but don’t worry too much if this is not neat and exact. Starting from one of the ends, tie up the belly with butcher string so that it holds shape without collapsing open. You will need at least 4 or 5 knots and bits of string to keep the pork tightly packed up. (TIP: the butcher at Morrisons has some elastic butcher string which makes this very easy; if you ask nicely, they will happily give you a handful!)

5. Once tied up, place the porchetta in a large dish and sprinkle the outside of the porchetta with salt before placing in the fridge to rest (uncovered) over night. The salt will help moisture out of the skin and ensure you get extra crispy crackling. 

6. The following day, take the porchetta out of the fridge about an hour before you intend to roast is so that it can come up to room temperature. Pre-heat the oven to  140 degrees and roast the pork for about 4 hours. At this point, depending on how crispy the skin is, you could increase the temperature to 200 degrees for 10/15 minutes more, but this may not be necessary.

7. Let the pork rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing. 

8. The porchetta can be served with potatoes and vegetables, but is also great inside soft white rolls.

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