It’s been a huge time back on the tools, and work-life has come full circle from teaching cooking at Icon, upstairs at The Kitchens, Robina Town Centre QLD, to a one-night-only return to the pass at the old Cabarita Ocean Health Retreat – now called Sommerley’s Ocean retreat, in Casuarina NSW – 10 years since we opened the gates, for a very special 40th birthday recently. Here’s my version of Italian rolled pork featuring Bangalow Sweet Pork, homegrown sage and local macadamias. Perfect for the Christmas table or any special feast.
Rolled, roasted pork belly stuffed with macadamias and sage
5kg Bangalow sweet pork belly, boned (ask your butcher to do this, they may even stuff it for you too!
For the stuffing
3 tbsp cracked black pepper
4 knobs of garlic, crushed
3–2 tsp salt, more to taste
3 bunches fresh sage, trimmed, roughly chopped
175g macadamia nuts, crushed in a mortar and pestle
100ml macadamia oil
The day before
- Lie the pork belly flat with the skin-side up. Use a very sharp knife – a clean, sterilised box cutter is perfect – and score the fat lengthwise at 1cm intervals.
- Place the scored pork on a wire rack and rub well with plenty coarse salt.
- Chill uncovered overnight.
The next day
- Remove the pork from the fridge a few hours prior to cooking, and dry well with paper towels. Lay the pork belly on a large board or clean work surface, flesh side up.
*It is so important to let it come to room temperature before cooking, so do this now if you haven’t already done so!.
- Preheat oven to 220-240°C.
- Meanwhile, pound macadamias with a mortar and pestle with the pepper, garlic, salt and sage to produce a rough paste.
- Transfer to a mixing bowl and add around half of the macadamia oil, mix well with your hands.
Alternately, do it all in a food processor, adding oil in last, as if you were making pesto.
- Transfer the stuffing to the fleshy part of the pork belly, smoothing it across the flesh evenly.
- Slide cut pieces of kitchen string underneath the skin side at 2cm intervals (see photo).
- Roll and tie the pork belly carefully, remembering that you want the skin on the outside to crackle.
- Pat dry with paper towels again to reduce any excess moisture, rub with remaining macadamia oil and season well with salt as this helps to create the crackle.
- Then transfer to a rack or trivet within a baking tray, or directly onto a greased wire rack in the oven. Place a baking dish underneath to catch the fat, if so.
- Roast at a very high temperature for 20 – 30 minutes to kickstart the crispy crackling process.
*be careful not to burn it so I advise you to stay close to the oven for this first cooking step.
- Reduce the heat to 140-150°C, and open the oven door for a minute or two to allow any residual smoke or steam to escape while the oven cools down a little.
- Continue to cook for 2-2.5 hours or longer at a very low temperature.
- I strongly advise that you use a meat thermometer. See the handy chart below.
- If your pork is not crackling by now, crank up the heat and blast it at a high temperature for 5-10 minutes to get that perfect crackling.
- Rest for at least 10 minutes covered with foil, remove the string, and slice carefully gathering the stuffing into the slices if it falls apart to serve.
Pork crackling cooking tips
- Make sure you dry the skin very well before adding the oil otherwise it will not crackle.
- When scoring the pork, cut all the way through the skin and fat but not into the meat or else the juices will run when roasting, which will soften the crackling and dry out the meat.
- Chill the pork uncovered in the fridge for at least 4 hours. This will allow the pork to dry out maximising the crackle.
- Don’t over-focus on the crackling and forget the meat – if your meat is cooked but you’re not happy with the skin, cut it away and perfect it in a hotter oven while you rest the meat.
- Use leftover crackling as garnish on salads or roast vegetables
When is my pork cooked?