“If I had to narrow my choice of meat down to one for the rest of my life, I am quite certain that meat would be pork.” James Beard

Within a short radius of our village, we have a surfeit of that endangered species – the traditional butcher. At the risk of sounding louche, we have no less than five within easy reach, along with a plethora of wet fish shops for good measure – plastic swathed supermarket flesh has never floated my boat.

When shopping, I become mesmerised by their work, slicing, filleting, boning, skinning, often at speeds that would leave me a few digits short by day’s end. And although my knife skills aren’t too shabby, the speed at which a butcher can sharpen what’s left of a knife blade leaves me slack-jawed. But my consuming envy is reserved for the butcher’s dexterity with twine. I’ve been shown a dozen times by patient butchers, trussing rolled joints and poultry, but once back in my kitchen the speedy knack deserts me. Which is why James Rutland and I work together whenever Porchetta is on the weekend menu.

James’s own tale in the Norfolk section of Andrew Webb’s useful tome, Food Britannia (2011), is worth a glance. His pork, Norfolk reared Gloucester Old Spot, always free-range.

I seek collaboration whenever this concentric assembly is requested by our family, and James willingly provides both patience and knowhow. Firstly we agree on the size of a rectangular slab of boneless pork belly, and he matches its longest axis with pork loin. I then return to my own kitchen, heave the pestle and mortar down to the worktop, and grind the forcemeat ingredients to a rough paste. Back to James, pork belly settled on the block, I slather on the paste, he places the loin along the smeared surface and whilst rolling the whole assembly like a cuban cigar, reaches for what is disarmingly called abattoir twine. To say the trussing is seamless is an understatement, it is sure and it is always accurate. Above all, it is undertaken at a speed that appears set on fast-forward. I leave with my giant porcine cylinder, the stuffing held firm and not a tissue out of place. The ergonomics of its creation are far more complex than the cooking, but the eating brings the greater reward.

Probably the most requested pork meal within our family and, with the exception of suckling pig, the tastiest. At the risk of displacing our treasured national pork dishes, the Italians steal the show with this one.

Porchetta from Five Quarters. Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome (2015) Rachel Roddy

2.5kg pork belly, boneless

600g of pork loin

2 tbsp of chopped rosemary

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp of ground fennel seeds

1 pinch of chilli flakes

1 lemon, zested

2 tbsp of white wine

1 tsp salt

1 tsp crushed black peppercorns

500ml of water

To begin, place the fennel seeds and chilli flakes in hot, dry pan and toast for 30 seconds, until fragrant

Peel the garlic cloves and place in a pestle and mortar. Add the herbs, toasted spices, salt, pepper and white wine and grind to a rough paste

Place the pork belly skin-side down and lay the loin across the width. Trim the loin down to size so it rolls up neatly

Lightly score the belly flesh in a 2cm diagonal pattern and massage the stuffing paste into the belly and loin. Place the loin back onto the belly

Roll up tightly, tie up with butcher’s string and leave uncovered in the fridge overnight. This will dry out the skin, giving a crispier crackling

Preheat the oven to 160°C/gas mark 3

Place the pork on a wire rack set over an oven tray. Pour in the 500ml of water and cook in the oven for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Check at intervals; if the water has evaporated, add a little more

Leave to rest for 30 minutes before carving. Slice and serve

Wine thoughts

Sangiovese, the ubiquitous grape  of Tuscany and the principal variety in Chianti, is also found in one of Italy’s greatest wines – Brunello di Montalcino. Prices have become increasingly prohibitive over the past 30 years as the wine has taken on something of a cult status. For our porchetta I’ve opted for a lighter bodied (and less expensive version) – Rosso di Montalcino. Like its grander cousin Brunello, the wine is dark and savoury, but with bitter cherry and spice notes, it offers an invogarting foil to our rich sweet meat.