A rack of pork is a splendid thing and makes an eye-catching and generous Sunday lunch. Cooking chops en masse this way ensures they come out perfectly succulent. Like yours better done? Eat the end ones. Prefer your pork a bit pinker? Plump for one from the middle.
This recipe retains the crackling (I love crispy crackling) but has a hidden layer of fennel seeds, garlic, thyme and lemon zest, like porchetta. You can swap the thyme for finely chopped rosemary, if you like, and add a pinch of chilli flakes.
Ask your butcher to French trim the rib bones, chine it and to score the skin thoroughly. You can also ask them to do step one of the recipe, too, see below. Once you’ve got the joint home, try to prepare the meat the night before if possible, or at least a few hours in advance, so the flavours permeate and the skin dries out for optimum toothsome crunchy crackling (the only adequate word is ‘phwoar’).
Rack of pork with fennel, garlic, thyme and lemon (serves 5-6)
Rack of pork, between 1.5kg-2kg (aim for 1 chop per person)
2 tspn fennel seeds, roughly ground
4 fat gloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tspn lemon thyme leaves, stripped from stem
Salt and pepper
1 onion, peeled and cut horizontally into three thick slices
1 dessertspoon of plain flour (optional)
A small glass of cider or white wine
About 200ml good quality chicken stock
If you haven’t already asked your butcher to do this, cut off any string tying the joint and with a sharp knife, slice between the meat and the layer of fat under the skin, stopping before you reach the bottom. Don’t cut the skin off altogether, it should open like a book.
In a small bowl, mixed the lightly crushed fennel seeds with the garlic, thyme and lemon zest. Plaster a layer of this over the meat you’ve just exposed and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Flip the skin back over and re-tie the joint. Set aside, uncovered, in the fridge overnight or for as long as possible for the skin to dry out.
Twenty minutes before you're ready to start cooking, remove the meat from the fridge to allow it to come to room temperature and pre-heat the oven to 240C/475F/Gas Mark 9.
Rub the pork skin with a little oil, sprinkle with sea salt and put in a roasting tin, using the sliced onion as a trivet.
Cook for 30 minutes then lower the temperature to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and roast for about an hour longer or until the crackling is crisp and the meat juices run clear. Remove the rack to a heated plate and keep warm while you make a sauce.
Discard the onions and skim any excess fat from the pan juices. Stir in the flour, if you'd like a slightly thickened gravy, and let it cook off for a minute or two. Add a good splash of cider and let it bubble away, scraping up all the good brown bits from the bottom of the tin. Pour in the chicken stock, stir and reduce until you have a well-flavoured sauce.
It's easiest to carve if you remove the crackling and serve it separately. Cut the joint into individual chops and serve with the sauce on the side and your choice of vegetables. An apple or quince purée is also a good accompaniment.