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Roast Loin or Belly of Pork with Fennel

A loin or belly of pork, roast on the bone with the rind transformed to a crispy burnished golden cracking is a lovely sight and makes a delicious meal. When buying a piece of pork there needs to be some fat on the meat. A lean piece of pork will lack the juciness, sweetness and succulence  of a fattier joint, so  look out for about ¾ cm of fat on the pork.  Specialist butchers or farmers markets are probably the best shopping route to a good piece of pork. It can be very dry and disappointing or it can be a proper treat. The pork definitely needs to be free-range to guarantee a delicious result. The excess fat on the pork will render out during the cooking so you wont be eating it all, but if it isint there to start with you have little chance of success. You can strain the liquid rendered fat, allow it to cool and store it in the fridge for roasting vegetables or for frying. It will store happily when chilled for  at least a month.

To achieve a good crackling, apart from the fat on the pork, you will need to score the rind before the pork is cooked. A very sharp small knife or a Stanley knife will work perfectly. The meat is scored at 1cm intervals with the grain, as in the direction that you will be carving it and, to the desired thickness of the cooked carved slices of meat.

The added flavourings here of fennel seeds, chilli and garlic work brilliantly with the sweet pork meat. The traditional apple sauce pairs really well with these southern European flavourings.  The gravy is simple and light.

 

  • Watch out for pork meat from old breeds such as Gloucester Old Spot, Saddleback, Red Duroc and Black Berkshire for juicy and flavoursome meat
  • Fennel seeds have a sweet and aniseed like flavour and are lovely with pork
  • Dried chillies, with their deep and slightly smoky heat enliven this dish
  • Bitter bramley type cooking apples and Blood plums are best for the accompanying sauce
  • Star anise is a beautiful sweet and aromatic spice but needs to be used with restraint. Too much can effect a pot-pourri type over the top flavour

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 2.25gk loin or belly of pork, on the bone with the rind on
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic peeled
  • 2 dried chillies or 2 teaspoons of chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190c / 375f / gas 5
  2. Score the pork rind at 1 cm intervals running with the grain of the meat. If you are worried about this, ask your butcher to do it for you. Grind the fennel seeds to a coarse powder with a pestle and mortar. Add the garlic and chilli and a pinch of sea salt and continue to grind to a paste, adding 1 tablespoon of olive oil if necessary to loosen the paste.
  3.  Smear this paste over the scored pork rind, pressing it in between the cuts. Season the pork with another pinch of salt and black pepper. Place the pork on a wire rack in a roasting tin and roast for about one hour and fifty minutes. By now the juices should be running clear and if you do the “skewer test” on the pork, the skewer will be hot.  Baste the pork several times during the cooking. Remove the pork from the oven and place on another roasting tin and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes with the oven temperature increased to 230c / 450f / gas 8 to give the rind a final crisping. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 100c / 200 f / gas ¼. Replace the pork in the oven to keep warm and rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.
  4. To make the gravy, degrease the first roasting tin thoroughly and save the fat if you wish. Deglaze the tin with the chicken stock, scraping the tin to dislodge any caramelised meat juices. Strain  the liquid through a sieve into a small saucepan. Taste and correct seasoning and if necessary continue to cook the gravy to reduce and to concentrate the flavour. A dd the parsley just before serving.
  5. Carve the pork into neat slices and serve on hot plates with the bubbling gravy and the apple sauce on the side.