© David Loftus
grilled and roasted pork (maiale alla griglia e arrosto)
When I was in Altamura, in Puglia, I cooked this grilled and roasted pork loin with a group of Italian friends. It’s a great thing to serve at a party because when you’ve grilled it on all sides for fifteen minutes you can just pop it into a hot oven for an hour quite happily and leave it – and you can serve it as a hot roast or have it cold. My boss at the River Café, Rose Gray, used to baste her grilled pork with herb vinegar and bay leaves, which was a tremendous combination, so feel free to do this, or to use rosemary instead of bay. The way we flavored ours in Italy was with fennel seeds, dried chili, salt, and pepper. I’m going to give you the recipe for twelve, but feel free to halve it, or even double it. It’s dead simple, and it’s made even easier if you ask your butcher to prepare the meat for you. Just ask for a 41⁄₂-lb. loin of pork, off the bone with the skin removed.
First of all, smash your fennel seeds up in a pestle and mortar and crumble and bash in your dried chili – now, this is supposed to give a subtle heat, so I’m going to leave it up to you to use as much or as little as you prefer. Put your loin of pork onto a cutting board and score the fat in a crisscross fashion. Rub the meat all over with a little olive oil, then sprinkle the fennel seeds and chili all over the pork. Cover the pork up and put it to one side in a roasting pan – if it has come straight out of the fridge, let it come to room temperature – so that it can absorb the flavors.
About an hour before you’re ready to cook, you need to light your barbecue and get it to the right temperature. I’d advise you to use charcoal instead of gas so that you get a lovely chargrilled flavor coming through. You can also, of course, roast the meat in the oven, but I prefer to do it on the barbecue. (If you roast it in the oven for the whole time, it’ll need 1 hour 20 minutes.) Either way, season the meat quite generously with salt and pepper and place it fat-side-down on the grill. This will make the barbecue flame a bit so you’ll probably need to turn it over quickly onto the meat side, but it does tend to get the bars oiled up and the smoke going, which we like. Grill the meat for 10–15 minutes, depending on how hot your barbecue is, and remember to keep turning it so it gets those lovely charred bar marks all over it.
Remove the pork to the same roasting pan you marinated it in and put it into the oven at 400ºF. After half an hour add the vinegar and rosemary leaves, carefully move the meat around and baste it, and put it back into the oven for another 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven, leave it to rest for 10 minutes, then slice the meat up. All the lovely juices from the pan can be kept warm and poured over the meat just before serving. If you’ve been to Italy, you may have noticed that you really do just get some slices of meat with a simple side dish. At the end of the day, the meat tastes great; so serve it in any way you see fit.
• 2 heaping tablespoons fennel seeds
• 2 or 3 dried red chilies
• 1 4 1/2-lb pork loin, preferably organic
• olive oil
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 10 tablespoons good-quality red wine
• a bunch of fresh rosemary, leaves picked