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 15 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 flavoured ours in Italy was with fennel seeds, dried chilli, salt and pepper. I’m going to give you the recipe for 12, 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 2kg/4½lb 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 chilli – 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 on to a chopping board and score the fat in a criss-cross fashion. Rub the meat all over with a little olive oil, then sprinkle the fennel seeds and chilli all over the pork. Cover the pork up and put it to one side in a roasting tray – if it has come straight out of the fridge let it come to room temperature – so that it can absorb the flavours.
About an hour before you’re ready to cook, you need to light your barbecue to let it get to the right temperature. I’d advise you to use charcoal instead of gas so that you get a lovely chargrilled flavour 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 on to 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 to 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 tray you marinated it in and put it into the oven at 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. 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 tray 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.