Belly porchetta, with Christmas flavours

First, apologies if things look slightly out of kilter for a while. Blogger in their wisdom have been making changes, and LiveWriter, which I use to compose and publish posts, will not talk to Blogger any more. A fix is being worked on, but will not be available until next year.

We went out for a work Christmas lunch recently, and went to Jamie’s Italian. Two of us chose the porchetta, and it was very nice, but way too heavy on the black pepper for my tastes. The pepper and the lemon overpowered everything a bit, so I wondered if I could make it myself.

This weekend I was just going to use up what was in the freezer, but then I went to the butcher just to say hi and saw the pork belly.
I had prosciutto in the fridge that needed to be used up, and lots of clementines starting to look sad. I also had a packet of ready roasted chestnuts from the local Turkish shop, that I was dying to try.
Roasted belly pork and the chance to use up lots of bits and pieces? Definitely.
I asked the butcher to debone the belly, and score the skin, and I took the bones as well.

1 piece deboned pork belly, approx. 2-3lb in weight

1 pouch of ready cooked chestnuts
6-8 slices of prosciutto
Zest of 2 clementines and 1 lemon
1 tbs fennel seeds
1 tsp sea salt flakes
2 cloves garlic
olive oil
Oven 170C fan
Toast the fennel seeds in a dry pan until they darken a little, then grind in a spice grinder with the sea salt. Bingo, fennel salt for all your porky needs.
Mash the chestnuts with some olive oil and the zest of 1 clementine.
Grate in 2 cloves of garlic to it, and mix very well.
Lay the pork out flat, skin side down.
Sprinkle with a little fennel salt.
Lay the prosciutto slices on top, tucking them into any crevices, and add some orange and lemon zest.
Smooth the chestnut mixture all across the prosciutto.
Grate over the lemon and the remaining clementine, and sprinkle more fennel salt. I had more clementine than lemon, and I think that worked well.

Roll the pork up, starting at the thicker end, then tie inexpertly with string.
Rub olive oil into the skin, then add some more fennel salt, rubbing it all over the skin and getting it into the cracks.
Place the rib bones into a roasting pan, sprinkle some fennel salt on to them and drizzle some olive oil so that they don’t stick to the pan. You want to eat them later!
Rest the rolled pork on top.
Roast for around 2 hours.
Test the internal temperature at 1 and 2 hours. (It needs to get up to 71C, so that will depend on how big your piece of meat is. My meat thermometer has turned into a bit of a godsend, I have to say.)
When the roast reached the correct internal temperature, I switched the oven to the grill setting, in order to crisp up the skin. That took about 5-10 minutes and possibly created a little smoke. [ahem]
Let it rest for at least 15 minutes still sat on the bones to let it relax a bit. Made it easier to get the string off too.
The prosciutto had crisped up inside, so it was a bit resistant to being carved, but I got a slice off in the end, and a really sticky, caramelised rib to have with it too. I served mine with roasted Jerusalem artichokes and honey glazed baby beetroots.
All in all, I call this a big success. The clementine zest works extremely well with the chestnuts and the fennel, and both work with the sweet meat. I’ll definitely do this again, and I am going to make sure to go back to the Turkish shop for more chestnuts. So much easier to buy them that way.
I think a bigger version of this would make quite an impressive centrepiece. Or a lot of leftovers, which is no bad thing.

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