At least 8 hours before cooking (ideally the night before), dry pork rind very well with paper towels. Score rind and fat with a sharp knife (stopping before you get to the meat layer). Sprinkle with 1 tsp flaky sea salt and return, uncovered, to fridge. After a couple of hours, use a paper towel to wipe off any liquid the salt has drawn to the surface, along with the sea salt. Replace with a fresh sprinkling of 1 tsp sea salt and return to fridge uncovered. Repeat the process two or three more times – this is the first step to achieving amazing crackling!
An hour before cooking, remove pork from fridge and place (rind-side up) in a large baking dish (choose a non-ceramic dish that can stand extremely high heat).
Preheat oven to 240°C and set rack in the middle of the oven. Dry rind again with a paper towel and rub the halved lemon over the pork, squeezing very slightly as you go (another secret tip to ensure great crackling). Scatter over 1 tsp flaky sea salt. Roast, uncovered, until the rind is blistered (about 25 minutes). Remove from the oven.
In small bowl, combine 300ml cider, Dijon mustard and a good grind of freshly ground cracked pepper. Whisk to combine. Add bayleaves, sage leaves and whole garlic cloves. Pour cider mixture into the dish around the pork (avoid getting the skin and rind wet). Add slightly more cider if required, so that the majority of the flesh is submerged in liquid but the fat and rind remain dry. Return to oven, reduce heat to 160°C and continue to roast for 1½ hours. Remove from oven. If there is an excessive amount of cooking juices, reserve a few tablespoons’ worth and discard the rest.
Quarter the apples (leaving peel on) and trim and quarter the fennel. Toss apple and fennel in a bowl with a little olive oil and the reserved cooking juices. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange snugly around pork and return to the oven. Increase temperature to 180°C and roast for a further 30 minutes or until apple is soft. Remove dish from oven and allow pork to rest for 15 minutes.
While pork is resting, transfer fennel to another dish or oven tray to roast for a further 10 minutes until cooked through and starting to caramelise. Slice pork and serve with fennel and apples.
* Check label if eating gluten-free
This recipe comes from the August/September issue of NADIA magazine.