Roast pork with Nelly Robinson

Nelly Robinson

Nelly Robinson

Nelly Robinson of Sydney's Nel restaurant talks us through his favourite roasting joints, tips for crisp roast potatoes and why, when it comes to pork, slow and steady always wins the race.

The season for roasts is just around the corner and who better to quiz for tips than Nelly Robinson? As well as a love for his mother's Sunday roast, the Lancashire-born chef has a wealth of produce knowledge - best experienced at his Sydney restaurant, Nel. 

Here are his tips for all things pork:

What does a roast represent to you?

Home, every Sunday in winter in northern England. My mother would knock together roast pork and apple sauce, while me and my dad would sit in front of the fire watching the football.

Best joints for roasting?

I love working with a rolled marinated pork belly or pork rack, which turns into a big, juicy pork chop. For a quick roast, just a single chop would be lovely. With crisp roast potatoes and apple sauce, of course.

What's the best way to prep pork for roasting?

I always marinate the pork for two hours in a brine mixture, then salt the skin and cook slowly.

How long should pork be roasted?

My biggest tip for a juicy piece of pork is to cook it slowly on a low temperature so the juices don't run out and dry the meat. The slower the better. The ideal temperature is 53 degrees C in the centre of the meat and 85 degrees on the crust. It takes us 1.5 hours at Nel to reach those temperatures. Some chefs think cooking pork quickly at a high heat will give you the best crackling, but that is rubbish.

What is the best way to ensure a crisp, dry crackling?

Salt the skin to gain the most flavour and the crispest crackling. To add a little extra crunch, I remove the skin from the meat, pan-fry it then roast it in a hot oven to finish. In terms of texture, the worst result would be soggy crackling and dry pork. If I see soggy crackling, it's going in the bin. No questions asked.

What's all the fuss about the pink pork?

People think you must cook pork all the way through and mustn't eat it pink, as with a roast chicken. In fact, Australian-grown pork can be eaten with a blush of pink and diners like it that way. At Nel we serve it at 53 degrees, so there's a little pink, but it ensures that all the flavour and juiciness remain.

How long should you let pork rest?

The rule is that you should let roast pork rest for half the time you cook it for. But we let our racks rest for around an hour just to let the meat fully relax.

What's your top carving essential?

A sharp knife.

Which veggies pair best with pork?

Crisp roast potatoes with carrot and swede purée. And homemade apple sauce.

What is your trick to perfecting roast potatoes?

Pre-boil the potatoes, then let them rest and cool. Add to a high oven (250 degrees C) with red-hot oil and don't forget salt - plenty of it.

Let's talk condiments. It's not a roast without…

Gravy and apple sauce. That's all you need.

Drinks and dessert?

Stick to the apple route and match your roast pork with an ice-cold cider. On the dessert front, I wouldn't go with anything rich. My choice is an apple crumble with custard and ice-cream.

Where do you source the produce for a Sunday roast?

Berkshire pork from Byron Bay is beautiful, plump and fatty. All my other vegetables come direct from the markets and my mate, John Velluti.

You've said your mother's Sunday roast would be your last meal on Earth; what makes it so special?

Because, like the food we create at Nel, it's all about memories. The memory of eating Denise's roast dinner all smashed up in my bowl as a one-year-old still sticks with me today. Plus, she makes the best gravy.

Nel, 75 Wentworth Avenue, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9212 2206, nelrestaurant.com.au

This article is presented by Australian Pork


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