Do you love entertaining friends? It is something that I don't do often enough, but I love the planning and effort that goes into it, and it gives you a real sense of satisfaction when it is done, especially if your guests has a good time and enjoyed the meal.
Recently (ummm, well 4 weeks ago), I held a dinner party for my friend and her husband. It was around the time of the Daring Bakers tiramisu challenge, so the dessert was obviously going to be tiramisu. This made me decide to plan an Italian inspired meal for my guests. I pulled out all of my Italian editions of Delicious magazine, and came up with a menu.
For the main course, I selected Jamie Oliver's recipe for porchetta stuffed with mushrooms from the May 2009 edition of Delicious magazine. As Jamie rightly says, it looks impressive but is not that hard to do. The price of the meat from the butcher kind of shocked me (it was twice as much as I had estimated in a telephone call with the butcher), but I took it on the chin, lesson learned, and really enjoyed this dish. The mushrooms enhanced rather than overpowered the flavour of the pork, and Jamie's gravy recipe really set the whole meal off. The crackling was also a highlight of the meal.
The ingredients required are as follows:
Large handful of mixed mushrooms (I used button and shitake)
Small bunch of thyme leaves
2 garlic bulbs, 1 thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of butter
zest of 2 lemons
salt and pepper
a few slices of torn stale bread
3kg loin of pork, belly on but skin removed and kept for crackling (I only used 2kg)
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 small wine glass of alcoholic cider (drink the rest!)
1 tablespoon plain flour
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
Preheat your oven to its highest setting.
Tear the mushrooms roughly. Heat a large frypan, add some olive oil for cooking the mushrooms, add the mushrooms and thyme, then the sliced bulb of garlic and butter. Fry the mixture for about 10 minutes until the mushrooms start to brown. Add the lemon zest, salt and pepper, then tip the mushroom mixture into a bowl to cool. Once cool, add the torn bread and toss together.
Lay the pork loin, fatty side down, on a board, and use a knife to make a pocket between the loin and the belly meat, as shown:
Stuff the mushroom mixture into the pocket, then season the pork with salt and pepper all over:
Roll the belly around the loin, and tie it up with string in around 5 places to hold it all together:
If you have the pork bones, scatter them over the base of the roasting pan, and place the pork on top. Put the pork into the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 180 degrees Celsius.
Score the surface of the pork skin into diamonds with a sharp knife. Crack open the fennel seeds with some salt in a pestle and mortar, then rub the mixture into the scored pork skin, and place it on a baking tray.
After the pork has been in the oven for one hour, remove it and add the vegetables and the remaining garlic bulb broken up into unpeeled cloves to the baking tray. Pour the cider all over the pork, then return the pork to the oven and allow it to bake for another hour. Put the crackling into the oven at this stage too.
When the pork is cooked, remove t from the oven and allow it to rest on a plate, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. While the pork is resting, make the gravy by pouring the juices from the baking tray into a saucepan (with excess fat removed), mashing up the vegetables with a fork or potato masher, then adding the stock and the flour, and stirring over the heat until the gravy has reduced to the desired consistency. Sieve the gravy to remove the vegetable chunks and any flour lumps, and serve with the pork and crackling.
This is what the sliced pork looks like:
And here is the gorgeous tasting, burnished brown crackling:
The pork was appreciated by both my guests, and I would definitely make it again.
I went to see Jamie Oliver Live in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago. Although I enjoyed it, it wasn't as much fun as when I saw him about 9 years ago in a more intimate venue. Quite a few people left well before the end of the show, which seemed to drag a little in a few places. I was also embarassed for a well known Australian pizza chain when Jamie rang up for a pizza live onstage and got more than a little attitude from the operator taking his order. If it had been me in real life, I would have told them to stick their pizza because the operator was so rude. A big hello to the lady from Malaysia who came on stage and was prepared to go to great lengths to get books signed for her friends and to find her daughter a husband. You go girl!