Turkey, turkey, turkey. I’m over it already and we're only just in the first week of December!
After spending a number of years working in restaurants doling out thousands of portions of this ubiquitous Festive offering with all the trimmings you can get to a stage where you never want to see another of the goofy gobblers ever again! This year, I’m doing a goose for Christmas but we are heading down to the Borders with friends for New Year and we are all taking turns to cook. It should be pretty good as we have three chefs amongst us which means the pressure is on to produce a decent plate of food!
For my night I am going to do a Porchetta made with pork belly. This Italian dish originated in a town outside Rome but is now widely prepared throughout Italy as a celebration dish. The idea is to bring a ray of summer sunshine to a dark winter’s evening. It is super simple to prepare but does take a bit of time to pull all the elements together. So, here’s how I do it if you want to give it a go. And if you do, why not share it on our Facebook page? We'd love to see your results.
First, you need a clean Stanley knife or craft knife to score the skin with. I like to do this in vertical stripes a few millimetres apart. The closer together the better to allow the salt to get into the skin and the heat to crisp it up.
The big secret here is to salt your pork belly for at least 12 hours before thinking of doing anything else with it. I’m going to dry the skin, grind up some sea salt and generously rub it in to the skin and then turn it over and add a mixture of sea salt, 4-5 cloves crushed garlic, cracked pepper and some ground star anise to the flesh side, ensuring it is evenly distributed. Don’t worry if it seems like a lot of salt as we give the flesh side a wee rinse before stuffing. You can then leave this in the fridge skin side up and uncovered in a (big) baking tray over night. The salt will semi-cure the pork and draw out some of the juices. Never fear however as the fat content will ensure your joint remains moist.
FOR THE STUFFING…
Meantime, I am going to chop and soften a couple of onions in olive oil with the sliced garlic for about 5 minutes over a gentle heat.
Then, in a large bowl add the diced fennel with preserved lemons and lemon zest. Then, add sultanas, toasted pine nuts, toasted fennel seeds, grated apples, lemon juice and some ground black pepper. Next, add in your roughly chopped herbs and mix everything up thoroughly.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER…
Now rinse the flesh side of the pork belly over the baking tray (not in the sink as it’s a health hazard) by pouring some cold water from a jug over it being careful not to get the skin side wet. Dry this well with some kitchen towel and lay skin side down on a chopping board or bench.
Pile the stuffing, about 2 cm in from the edge and running the length of the pork belly (like preparing to roll a cigarette?!). Using some butchers string prepare 7 or eight lengths that will easily go around the pork once it is rolled. Roll up the pork as tightly as possible (enlisting the help of any nearby friends or family!). Tie the strings at regular intervals along the joint as tightly as possible.
Rub the meat down with some olive oil and place in the oven on a clean baking tray lined with some roughly slice onion and woody herbs, like rosemary.
Roast at 200c for the first 30 minutes and turn down to around 160c for a further 3 hours. If the crackling isn’t crispy enough give it another blast at 200c before allowing to rest for 20 minutes uncovered.
Serve it up with panzanella, chargrilled broccoli and charlotte potatoes roasted with rosemary and sea salt.
RELAX, ENJOY AND HAVE A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Festive wishes and many thanks for your continued support.
Nigel and everyone and Appetite Direct
2 onions - chopped
10 cloves of garlic - sliced
Head of fennel - diced
2 preserved lemons - chopped
Zest of 2 lemons
Handful of sultanas
handful of toasted pine nuts
Handful of toasted fennel seeds
2 grated apples
1 juiced lemon
Ground black pepper
A selection of herbs roughly chopped -
flat leaf parsley, oregano, rosemary
3-4 kilos pork belly
FOR THE RUB
Sea Salt - a generous amount
4-5 cloves of garlic - crushed
Cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons Ground star anise