Porchetta – The famous Italian pork

A year or so ago we saw porchetta on one of the Italian cooking programmes (Not sure if was Jamie, Gino, Gennaro….). It looked delicious but quite complex and I wasn’t sure if my skills were up to the test.

A very rainy Sunday, a little bit of confidence and the desire for a roast spurred me on. 

Porchetta is an Italian roast pork dish stuffed with herbs.  Porchetta has been selected by the Italian Ministero delle Politiche Agricole, Alimentari e Forestali as a prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale (“traditional agricultural-alimentary product”, one of a list of traditional Italian foods held to have cultural relevance).

I’m sure that they wouldn’t approve the authenticity of my recipe!

I’m led to believe that there are many regional and international  variations of this dish. Many of the recipes available online are designed to feed 8-10 people. As there were only 2 of us for dinner today, this wouldn’t work and I couldn’t be bothered with the maths to scale them down. 

Waitrose had a recipe that served 4. Perfect for leftovers (apparantly very good in a crusty roll with garlic mayonnaise.) 

The meat

The recipe calls for a rolled joint of pork belly (1kg). 

After scouring the shops, I could only find a flat pork belly joint. When I got towards the middle of the recipe I understood why this joint was important. 

It worked out ok in the end but I wish I’d been able to get the rolled joint. 

Preparing the stuffing

The stuffing for the pork belly was slow cooked onions and fennel, orange and lemon juice, garlic, breadcrumbs, herbs, raisins and pinenuts. 

Slice the onion and fennel very finely and cook slowly in olive oil until soft and caramlised. A top tip from my Italian cookery lessons is to start with a cold pan and cover the veg with a pan lid to get a perfect, soft onion mix. 

  

When the onions and fennel are ready, add the garlic and herbs and cook for a few more minutes. 

Then add the pinenuts, breadcrumbs, orange and lemon juice and raisins.

  
Leave to cool completely. 

Citrus fennel salt

Before stuffing the pork, you need to coat the flesh with a citrus fennel salt. This is an interesting touch but I can understand how it might help tenderise the meat. 

  
Crush 2 tablespoons of fennel seeds with half a teaspon of Maldon sea salt in a pestle and mortar. Add the grated zest of half a lemon and half an orange and leave for a few minutes for the flavours to combine. 

Stuffing the meat

Once the stuffing has cooled, lay out the pork on a board and press the citrus fennel salt into the flesh and then place the stuffing on top of the salt leaving a 2cm boarder all the way around. 

  
Now, this is where I went wrong with the cut of meat. The rolled joint would give you an idea of how much ‘roll’ you have. I found that the flat belly pork joint would only fold over once. 

I ran a boning knife between the skin and the flesh to allow more ‘give’ and managed a full roll. 

It’s important to tie it properly and after a quick tutorial online, I was able to tie butchers knots all the way along the joint. 

  
Roasting the joint

Roughly chop 2 carrots, 3 sticks of celery and an onion and place in the bottom of a roasting tin. 

Place the meat on top and add a quartered apple and a bulb of garlic halved lengthways. 

Put 250mls of dry white wine and juice of half a lemon and half an orange into the pan and roast at 150c (140c fan) for 2 and a half hours. 

  
Gravy

Remove the meat to rest for 15 – 20 minutes and strain off the fat from the roasting pan. 

Add a tablespoon of flour to the meat juices and cook over a medium hob heat for 2 – 3 minutes until the juices reduce. 

Add 500ml of chicken stock and boild rapidly until halved and then strain into a clean saucepan and cook for 10 minutes. 

Slice the meat and serve with the gravy, veg and mash. 

Buon appetito!


                 

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