Porchetta served with a side of jap pumpkin with cinnamon and currants.
Porchetta served with a side of jap pumpkin with cinnamon and currants. Photo: Marina Oliphant

Porchetta is one of Rome's classic dishes. Traditionally a boned-out pig stuffed with fresh herbs, garlic, fennel and offal, it is superb served hot with its crackling, or makes one of the world's great sandwiches. I'm using shoulder here (and skipping the offal), as a whole pig is a bit much for most of us and shoulder roasts so beautifully.

 

Porchetta

This is a great method for cooking pork shoulder. The succulent, slow-roasted flesh is perfumed by the hard herbs, fennel and black pepper, and a blast of heat at the end achieves a beaut crackling.

2.8kg-3.2kg whole free-range shoulder of pork, it will help if you ask your butcher to butterfly it

40g salt flakes, plus extra

2 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds

1 tbsp black peppercorns

6 cloves garlic

5 sprigs rosemary, picked

5 sprigs oregano, picked

1/2 bunch parsley

Extra virgin olive oil

1 branch bay leaves

1. Place the pork in a colander, skin side up and pour a whole kettle of boiling water over the skin to open the pores and soften. Dry and score the skin in 1cm intervals.

2. Place the shoulder on a tray and rub the 40g of salt into the cuts and all over the meat. Put into the fridge uncovered overnight, skin side up - this dries out the skin and slightly cures the pork.

3. To cook, preheat the oven to 130C fan-forced (150C conventional).

4. Dry-roast the fennel seeds in a frying pan for two minutes over medium heat. Add to a mortar and pestle and grind with the peppercorns and a pinch of salt. Add the garlic and crush. Shred three bay leaves, chop the rosemary and oregano and add to the mortar, then grind to a fine paste (if you have one, a small-bowled food processor will make short work of this).

5. Finely chop the parsley and add to the paste, along with a splash of oil to loosen slightly - this paste should be kept quite dry.

6. Remove the pork from the fridge and flip it over, skin side down and opened out. Spread the herb paste on the meat pushing into all the crevasses. Roll up the pork as tightly as you can and secure firmly at regular intervals with kitchen string. Rub all over with olive oil and place into a baking tray on top of the branch of bay leaves and roast for 3 1/2 hours.

7. Once cooked, remove from the oven and bump the heat up to 250C.

8. Baste the whole joint with the juices from the pan and put it back in the oven for about 10 minutes to get great crackling - watching it carefully.

9. Remove and rest for at least 10 minutes. Remove string, slice and serve with roast pumpkin and silverbeet gratin.

Serves 8-10

Drink A fragrant textural white blend from Friuli or a young dolcetto.

 

Jap pumpkin with cinnamon and currants

Roasting your pumpkin in large wedges gives you rich, sweet flesh with great caramelised edges, which are nicely accented by the cinnamon. The agrodolce element of the vinegary currants works well with the roast pork.

½ jap pumpkin, sliced in 3cm wedges, skin on, seeds removed

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt flakes

Freshly ground pepper

4 pinches cinnamon

3 tbsp currants

40ml sherry vinegar

3 eschalots, finely sliced

Pinch sugar

1. Preheat oven to 180C.

2. Toss the pumpkin wedges in enough olive oil to coat, season with salt, pepper and cinnamon. Place on a tray lined with baking paper and bake for 30 minutes.

3. Add the currants to a pot with the vinegar and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and allow to sit and plump up.

4. In a small bowl, add the eschalots, a pinch of sugar and salt, mix, scrunching with your fingers. Add a splash of oil, the currants and any vinegar left in the pot, stir, pour over the hot pumpkin and serve.

Serves 6-8

 

ALT

Silverbeet gratin

Humble silverbeet is transformed in this rich, tasty gratin, with two vegetable textures, a golden cheesy crust and the crunch of toasted breadcrumbs.

2 bunches silverbeet, washed well

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 brown onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

400ml pouring cream (35 per cent fat)

6 grates nutmeg

Salt flakes

1/2 lemon

5 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs

120g Grana Padano parmesan, finely grated

50g butter

1. Cut the silverbeet into three-centimetre lengths, including most of the stalk, discarding the woody ends.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the silverbeet for six minutes. Drain well and press out the excess water in a sieve.

3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the onion and garlic, then fry until softened. Add the silverbeet and cream, then grate in the nutmeg and season.

4. Bubble the mixture over a medium heat until the cream has reduced by about half.

5. Transfer half the silverbeet to a blender and blitz until smooth, then return to the pan and stir back through.

6. Tip into a gratin dish and sprinkle over the crumbs and cheese, dot with butter and bake with the grill on for 10 minutes, or until the crumbs turn golden and the cream is bubbling. Squeeze the lemon over the top and serve.

Serves 6-8