Porchetta

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.

Ingredients

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

2½ tbsp fennel seeds

1 tbsp black peppercorns

6 cloves garlic

5 sprigs rosemary, picked

5 sprigs oregano, picked

½ bunch parsley

Extra virgin olive oil

1 branch bay leaves

Method

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 3½ 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 (see links below.)

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

Serve with Karen Martini's Jap pumpkin with cinnamon and currants and a silverbeet gratin.