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  • Writer's pictureGary Mack

La Porchetta

When Jonathan told me about this dish, I could not believe that it existed! He told me it was a traditional Italian dish. Again, I did not believe him! How much garlic and salt? How much fennel and rosemary? I could not believe that I had never had a taste, of what I imagined, would be heaven. Well let me tell you.... One taste of this porky treat and I was in piggy heaven. (Sorry to any non-pork eating, veggie and Vegan readers, please stop reading now as this will only get worse.)

It was all true!  Let me share my story: So, the Italians start by de-boning and gutting the pig. They then assemble the pig by rolling, folding, layering the pork meat, herbs,  fat (very important... always important... yumcars) and skin (again yum). They stuff the pork with what you think would be enough garlic and herbs to burn your taste buds off you, fennel and rosemary, maybe a wee bit of pepperoncini maybe not! They roast the whole pig until the skin is crispy and the meat is infused with the heavenly herb mix.

The first time I tasted porketta (that's the other way to spell it), I was in Pescia, we were staying on the Tuscan farm. It was market day and it felt like the whole town was out! There were row after row after row of shoe stalls and clothing stalls and all I wanted was FOOD!

I could smell it before I saw it. There she was: My golden porchetta! Snout and all. The lovely lady behind the counter must have thought I was slightly mad - I was so excited. Jonathan ordered in Italian (!) as I salivated. Piles of tender pork and herbs squeezed into a crispy bun! She must have loved us, as she cut us a massive chunk of the crackling. Maybe that's just the norm, but I like to feel special !

Those that know me, know I am not very good at waiting. I cannot wait to savour the moment! Like waiting until Christmas morning when there is a Christmas Eve. You never know what is around the corner. So why leave that bottle of expensive plonk in the fridge when we could be celebrating the fact we got through the day! I am not very good at waiting... But this was different. I don't know why maybe I had already tasted it with my eyes and nose. Maybe I knew what it was going to do to me, or maybe I did not want to eat in the town centre, in the middle of the market, in 40°c heat - it was midday and the sun was high. Instead, we walked back in the direction of our shed with a bed, and decided to take a little detour to find somewhere beautiful with shade to eat our little pockets of porchetta. Sitting on that bridge, unwrapping the warm bun, the ultimate pork picnic was in front of me.  The first soft bite of pork was a fennel sensation.  

I believed !!.

Now, how to make it.... (That was a long story, so I shall keep this short!)

You need:

  • 1 x 1.5kg of pork loin joint (to be honest, you just want to stuff what ever joint of pork you can get your hands on. As long as it has plenty of meat and lots of fat. You need the fat to keep it succulent. 

  • 1 x whole bulb of garlic (as many large cloves as you can hold in your hand. I love the flavour, but feel to use as much as you wish).

  • A fistful of rosemary (Its not a normal term of measurement when cooking, it more about how you feel and how much you love rosemary). Do remember that too much can taste like soap. Pork can take a surprisingly large helping of rosemary. 

  • 2 x tbsp of Fennel seeds.

  • 1 x tbsp of salt (if you are using posh salt like Malden then you need 2 x tbsp it is lighter) you also need some for the skin.

  • zest of a lemon

  • optional 1, 2 or 3 pepperoncini you have it as hot as you like.

  • olive oil - have a bottle to hand you need it to lubricate the mix and rub all above the joint.

You can see from the picture above that I shoved everything in the pastel and the mortar. In hindsight I would start by pounding the fennel seeds, then the garlic, salt, pepperoncini and lemon. Then  add the chopped rosemary. Again, give it a good pounding! Finally stir in the olive oil. The oil is really just to help the mix loosen up and make it easy to work with. If you add all the ingredients at the same time, you have to really work hard (very hard) to get the right consistency. 

Once you have the right mix, you want to cut deep into your pork. You want to get the mixture right into the heart of the meat.

If you have belly of pork, it may be thin, but flatten it further with a rolling pin. Smother the mix all over the none-fatty side and roll the joint up, then secure. I did the same with a luscious loin. 

You can now let the joint sit. In a way you are marinating the meat. 

Ten mins or so before you want to pop your Porchetta in the oven, turn it up full blast. When ready, turn the temperature down to 240 and bung it in. Cook on this high temperature for 20 mins. Now turn your oven down to 190. Here comes the maths! You need to cook your joint at 190 for 30 mins per 500gm. For a lovely crackling it is best to turn the heat back up to 240 for 10min at the end. Keep an eye on the pork, you don't want it to burn. YumCars!

Porchetta - beautiful the next day on a super soft bun. heat the pork up just a little to get the juices running.

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