Home-style porchetta

Home-style porchetta

A Lot on Her Plate
Helen Cathcart

I really love pig. Well, it takes one to know one doesn’t it? There’s just something so good about melty, succulent pork meat, and nothing on earth I enjoy quite as much as the crackling fat. One of the best incarnations of pork I’ve ever had was at a sandwich store in Vancouver called Meat and Bread, which specialises in roasted porchetta (a rolled Italian pork roast) with really crackly crackling. The tender porchetta is stuffed with fragrant herbs and served on soft, pillowy ciabatta with the crackling thrown in for good measure, then drizzled with more punchy salsa verde: just unbelievable! This is my version, and it’s something I hope you’ll love as much as I do (if you have leftovers, it’s perfect cold in sandwiches).

To ensure really crackly crackling, I poach the pork belly in bicarbonate of soda and hot water first (a trick taught to me by my friend and fellow cook Uyen Luu, which guarantees great crackling) and then infuse it with herbs and spices for at least 12 hours, so you need to start preparing the dish the day before you cook it.


Quantity Ingredient
1.5kg bone-out pork belly, the same length as the tenderloin, and wide enough to wrap around it
1 tablespoon bicarbonate of soda
500g pork tenderloin, trimmed of sinew

Salt rub

Quantity Ingredient
3 teaspoons fennel seeds
3 teaspoons coriander seeds
4 teaspoons red chilli flakes
1 tablespoon sea salt

Herb rub

Quantity Ingredient
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
3 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
8 sage leaves, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 unwaxed lemon, zested

Salsa verde

Quantity Ingredient
large bunch flat-leaf parsley
10 basil leaves
10 mint leaves
pinch caster sugar
80ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
3 canned anchovy fillets in oil, drained, (or if using salt-packed, rinsed and chopped)
2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed and drained, (or 6 large capers, chopped)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
good-quality cider or red wine vinegar, to taste

To serve

Quantity Ingredient
1 portion My favourite lentils
fresh ciabatta bread, sliced


  1. Score the skin of the pork belly with a very sharp knife in a cross-hatch pattern, being careful only to score down to just before where the skin meets the fat, rather than the fat itself. Bring a large saucepan or roasting tray of water to simmer, and add the bicarbonate of soda. Place the pork belly in the water and poach gently for 5 minutes. Remove it from the water and leave to cool to room temperature.
  2. While the belly is poaching, roast the spices for the salt rub. Place the fennel, coriander seeds and chilli flakes in a dry frying pan and toast over a high heat for 2 minutes, until they are fragrant. Watch them so they don’t catch or burn, then transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.
  3. Once the pork belly has cooled, turn it skin-side down and stab it all over the underside with a knife – don’t be shy here, this will help it absorb all that lovely seasoning.
  4. Grind the cooled spices and salt in a mini-chopper, spice grinder or pestle and mortar.
  5. Combine all the ingredients for the herb rub. Rub the tenderloin (the meat should be at room temperature) and the belly all over with the spiced salt rub. Lie the pork belly, skin-side down, on the work surface. Massage the herb rub all over the belly’s underside. Place the tenderloin on top, wrapping the belly around it with the skin on the outside, and tie to secure with kitchen twine. Don’t worry if the belly doesn’t wrap all the way around – just make sure it’s as tight and snug as you can get it. Place loin-side down in a baking tray, uncovered, and chill for at least 5 hours, (preferably 10). You want the skin to completely dry out so that it crisps up nicely when you roast it.
  6. To cook the pork, remove it from the fridge and leave it for at least 1 hour to come to room temperature before you cook it. Preheat the oven to 140°C and cook the pork for 4 hours, turning the tray every 30 minutes or so to ensure it cooks evenly. If the skin looks in danger of burning, cover it with foil – but only do this once it has crackled. Ten minutes before the end of the cooking time, turn the heat up to 200°C and roast to crackle the skin to a gorgeous golden brown (cover any bits of skin that look like they’re likely to burn with foil).
  7. To make the salsa verde, combine the herbs, sugar, olive oil, garlic and mustard, and blitz in a food processor until you have a sauce. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in the anchovies, capers, and season with salt and pepper (add salt judiciously: the anchovies are salty so it may not need more). Add the vinegar little by little, a tablespoon at a time, tasting as you go, until you’ve piqued the sauce with acidity. This is the only acidic element in the dish, so it needs to be punchy without losing the grassy, fresh quality of the herbs. Trust your palate and judgement and taste as you go. You want the sauce to make you salivate ‘in a good way’.
  8. Once the pork has cooked, remove it from the oven and leave it to rest for at least 30 minutes.
  9. When you’re ready to carve, get a big chopping board. Remove the twine from the pork. Take a knife and gently trace the blade underneath the crackled skin, removing it from the fatty bottom of the belly. Cut the meat into slices with a very sharp carving knife; it should fall into nice herby slivers. Place the crackling on the board and use a big knife to chop it up into bite-sized chunks. Pile the sliced pork onto fresh ciabatta and serve with lentils and a good handful of crackling. Drizzle with salsa verde.
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