‘The taste and aroma of meat cooked on a spit will help you snatch a final piece of summer’
There are flavours that simply can’t travel. They depend on the place that they come from: local ingredients and knowledge, the weather, even the water. Take Neapolitan pizza. You can find it all over the world — and some versions are very good indeed — yet it’s only in Naples that this simple dish becomes sublime. But even if it’s impossible to recreate some flavours at home, that’s no reason not to try. If you crave a taste or miss a place, the best cure is to head to the kitchen.
As we struggle to say goodbye to the sun, we have been thinking of Greece and gyros — meat that is cooked traditionally on a spit.
Greek cooking only really works in Greece, but we can still come close enough to the taste and aroma of gyros to snatch a final piece of summer.
We get good-quality pork and leave it in a potent salt rub of lemon, garlic, oregano and cumin. Those bold seasonings will mellow in the oven as they mix with the melting flesh and fat of the pork. Serve the dish with flatbread and yoghurt, wedges of lemon and a crunchy little salad. Cooking such a large cut means you can invite as many people as you like, in the friendly spirit of summer.
Leftovers will keep well in the fridge for two to three days: try pan-frying chunky slices until they’re nice and crisp. Alternatively, slice the meat as thinly as you can for a sandwich or salad, or dice it into small cubes and freeze it, so next time you make a soup or stew you add a little bit of richness.
Pork belly with oregano, lemon and garlic
A feast for eight to 10 people — for the best results, you should start the day before
3 kg piece of pork belly with the bones left in
4 tbs Maldon sea salt 10g dry oregano (try to get your hands on a wild bunch)
10g lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
1 tbs whole cumin seeds, very roughly crushed
10g garlic, peeled and minced
2 lemons (the ones you zested), sliced thickly
2 large onions, unpeeled and cut into wedges
- Mix the salt with the oregano, lemon zest, cumin and minced garlic.
- Stab the skin all over with the tip of a sharp knife to help it crisp. (You could also ask your butcher to score the skin.)
- Use three of the lemon slices to rub the pork all over; then sprinkle with the salt rub. It seems like a lot but this is a large chunk of meat and the rub is the only seasoning it will get. Wrap it well and place in the fridge for at least six hours and up to 24 hours.
- When you are ready to roast, heat your oven to 220C (fan assist). Put the remaining lemon slices and the onion wedges in a large roasting tray and place the pork on top. Place in the oven and roast for 35 minutes until the skin starts to crisp.
- Remove from the oven carefully. Add a litre of water to the roasting tin, reduce the heat to 200C and return the tray for a further 30 minutes. Remove and baste the pork all over with the juices at the bottom of the roasting tin. Return to the oven for a further 30 minutes. Remove again and baste. Reduce to 180C for a further 30 minutes. Remove and baste again. Reduce the temperature to 160C and make sure there is just enough liquid to baste again. It should now be thick and flavourful — if it is becoming too dry, add a little more water and return for another 30 minutes.
- By this time, the pork will have been in the oven for about two and a half hours. Check if it’s soft enough by cutting off a piece and trying it. You may need a final 30 minutes to soften it through. Carefully remove from the oven. Use a large knife to slice into thick slices and serve with some of the cooking liquid.