The Rive Café cookbooks are fabulous, and their slow-roasted shoulder of pork is, hands down, my favourite way to eat pork. It has become our family’s Christmas dinner staple (during my almost three years of being a vegetarian I would cave once a year, on Christmas day, and eat this) and is basically fool proof. Slow cooking like this produces meat that falls off the bone and for reals melts in your mouth. The pan juices also make the most amazing gravy- bonus! Even friends who do not like pork like this dish.
We typically have this with apple sauce, some kind of simple green vegetable, salad and new potatoes. I have also used the recipe to do a kind of pulled pork sandwich easy summer dinner.
This recipe feeds about 8 people. We recently used a 4.5kg piece of shoulder to feed 12 people and it was pretty perfect (always err on the side of caution – leftover roast sandwiches the next day are SO good). If using a large piece of meat just increase the other ingredients accordingly. According to the River Cafe ladies you can cook this from 8-24 hours – the longer the better! When serving for dinner we usually pop it into the oven after breakfast. 9 hours seems about perfect for this size piece of meat, although an extra couple of hours would likely be even more delicious!
Always buy freedom farmed happy pork and ask your butcher to score the skin for you. SO much easier than DIY. If you like your crackling to be nice and crispy, as we do, remove the skin once the meat is out of the oven, chop up roughly, and place under the grill until it is done to your liking.
1 small whole shoulder of pork, with skin, about 2.75-3.25kg/6-7lb
10 garlic cloves, peeled
100g/4oz fennel seeds
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper
5-6 small dried red chillies, crumbled
juice of 5 lemons
3 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 230C/450F. If your butcher hasn’t already done this for you, score the whole skin of the shoulder with deep cuts (about 2cm between each cut).
Smash the garlic with the fennel seeds, then mix with salt, pepper and chilli to make a rough paste. Rub and push this mixture into and over the skin and all the surfaces of the meat. Place the shoulder on a rack in a roasting tin and roast for 30 minutes or until the skin begins to crackle up, blister and brown. Turn the shoulder and pour over half the lemon juice and two tablespoons of the oil. Place back skin side up, turn the oven down to 120C/250F, and leave the meat to roast, overnight or all day. Baste the meat occasionally with extra lemon juice and, if necessary, a little more oil.
The shoulder is ready when it is completely soft under the crisp skin. You can tell by pushing with your finger: the meat will give way and might even fall off the bone. Serve each person with some of the crisp skin and meat cut from different parts of the shoulder. Add extra lemon juice to deglaze the pan, and spoon some of this over. Make a gravy with the remaining pan juices – remove any overly dark clumps of fennel seeds, place the pan over a medium-high heat, add a little water and, stirring well, bring to the boil before adding a couple of teaspoons of flour to thicken. The combination of lemon, fennel, olive oil, chilli and meat juices makes for the BEST. GRAVY. EVER.