You’d remember if ever you’ve had real porcetta: the flavour is totally to die for, being aromatic, herby and garlicky within succulent and tender pork, wrapped in a crispy crackling shell. You can eat it hot or cold, in a roll or with veg, as a roast joint, in fact in any way you prefer – the ideal meaty main.
The Guardian article on the subject describes the dish as “the Italian version of hog roast,” which is accurate in the sense that in Italy it would commonly be cooked with the whole animal, though that is a tad impractical for most kitchens and few of us could accommodate a complete pig on our BBQs.
My starting point was the pork, for which I went to the excellent Millins of Tiptree. In fact, I emailed the order to them two days in advance, which may have confused them slightly, so I talked them through what I was doing and how I wanted the meat cut, which they provided perfectly. Perhaps the loin was a tad too thick to allow the combined meats to be rolled properly, so make sure the belly overlaps the loin by some margin, in order to get a full round coating of crispy skin.
Rather than using garden twine, I also invested in kitchen-grade string for the purpose, which at £5 a roll was more than a bit steep but certainly did the job.
A word or two on garlic. In this case I bought huge garlic bulbs from my local farm shop rather than using the feeble and tiddly specimens found in supermarkets. The vast cloves meant a judicious reduction in the quantity to compensate, particularly since the garlic flavour is that much stronger.
Ingredients (my additions to the recipe in italic)
- A rectangular piece of boneless pork belly
- A piece of pork loin of roughly the right size to be rolled up inside, skin left on (how much each piece weighs depends on the shape, but aim for a total weight of about 3.5-4kg)
- 50g garlic, crushed (about 10 cloves)
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds, toasted
- 2 tbsp fennel herb, chopped
- 1 tsp dried chilli flakes, toasted
- 30g sea salt flakes
- Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves, removed from the twig
- 1 tbsp thyme leaves, removed from the twig
- 1 tbsp olive oil, at room temperature
- Rolls, to serve
- Score the belly skin with a very sharp kitchen knife, then turn over so the meaty side is uppermost on a clean work surface. Season with salt and pepper.
- Chop your garlic into manageable proportions, since it’s not easy to crush whole cloves!
- Taking a good-sized pestle, add the garlic, herbs, seeds, flakes and salt then use the mortar to crush into a paste, adding olive oil to keep it moist. My mixture was on the chunky side, though experts at this will reduce to a fine greenish paste.
- Spread evenly across the pork belly, leaving 2cm uncovered on all sides.
- Lay the pork loin across the top, preferably fat side outermost.
- Place pieces of string underneath the belly at 5cm intervals. Roll the pork and tie the ends of the string tightly.
- Salt the belly skin, getting into all the cracks.
- Put the pork in a deep roasting tin, on top of a rack to allow the fat to drain off.
- Heat at high temperature for 20minutes or so, then reduce to low and put foil over the tin. In my case I started in the roasting oven of the Aga then transferred to the warming oven.
- Cook for at least 4 hours, though I did it overnight.
- Take off the foil and transfer to a hot oven for the last half hour to crisp the crackling.
- Allow to cool with foil covering, then serve. You can eat hot or cold, in rolls or in any other way you choose. Also makes an excellent hash!