I really love slow cooking things, especially casserole-esque goodies that can be kept and easily heated up at work for lunch the next day. When I was out and about this afternoon I saw some pig cheeks, which although fairly unusual in supermarkets I know for a fact are delicious when treated with some tender loving care.
To cook my dinner I followed (or attempted to) this recipe for braised pig cheeks from James Martin. I have a bugbear about buying a whole packet of something just for the sake of using one unit of it for a particular recipe, so instead of a banana shallot I used half a medium onion, and instead of a bouquet garni I used a tablespoon of thyme and oregano plus a couple of bay leaves.
Time: Takes about 30 minutes to prepare plus another 2 – 2 and a half hours cooking time.
Cost: The most expensive ingredient was the pig cheeks, which were were £3.73 altogether from Morrisons. Next was probably the wine at £5 per bottle – you use 200ml (equating to £1.30), with the rest to swig on as you cook or with your lovely dinner later on. TOTAL COST: £10.50
Feeds four hungry people, working out at a cost per head of just over £2.60.
For the braised pig cheeks:
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 12 pig cheeks, trimmed
- 1 large banana shallot, finely chopped
- 1 large carrot, finely chopped
- 2 celery sticks, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
- 1 bouquet garni
- 200ml/7fl oz red wine
- 400ml/14fl oz veal jus or beef stock
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 100g/3½oz unsalted butter, diced
Mr Martin suggests serving this with a creamy mash, sweet carrots, Bramley apple sauce and buttery kale. I did it with some squeaky green beans and mustard mash but I did make his apple sauce – the ingredients of which are below:
- 2 Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped
- 50g/1¾oz butter
- 2-4 tbsp caster sugar, to taste
And for my mustard mash you’ll need:
- About 1Kg of potatoes (King Edwards or Maris Pipers preferably)
- 3 tablespoons of wholegrain mustard
- A big splash of whole milk or double cream
- A quite massive block of butter (however much you want, but really, the more the better)
- Salt and white pepper, to season
- Preheat the oven to 150C/130C Fan/Gas 2.
Heat a large ovenproof dish on the hob (I used a John Lewis cast iron casserole dish that I got from Homesense for £40 a couple of years back), once hot add the olive oil. Fry the pig cheeks in batches (I did them in sets of four) until they are golden-brown in colour. Make sure when you first put them in the pan you don’t touch them for a minute or so, that way they get a chance to caramalise and colour up nicely. Then set them aside.
Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook gently for 3-4 minutes (I made the schoolgirl error of cutting up the veg chunky instead of fine as the recipe suggests, making it more casserole-style). Before doing this you may want to remove the dish from the heat for a moment as the it will retain a lot of the heat from when you fried the cheeks. This can cause the garlic and onion to burn quite quickly and go bitter. Bad times.
Add the bouquet garni (or mix of dried herbs) and return the pig cheeks to the dish. At this point I also added a large knob of butter – being a James Martin recipe it just felt like the right thing to do.
Increase the heat and add the red wine. Cook until the liquid has reduced by half, then add the veal jus or beef stock. The original recipe actually doesn’t mention when to add the red wine vinegar, so I just banged it in here with the stock. Transfer the dish to the oven and cook for 2-2½ hours, or until the pig cheeks are tender.
- About 1 hour and a half in, stick on the mash. If possible, steam your potatoes for 15-20 minutes or until they are quite soft to the touch. Take off the lid of the steamer and let them air for a couple of minutes. If you don’t have a steamer boiling them for 15 minutes is fine too.
- In a large pan, whack in your cooked potatoes, butter and milk or cream. Mash and season to taste.
- For the Bramley apple sauce, put the apples, butter and 50ml/2fl oz water in a lidded saucepan, cover and place over a medium heat. Cook until the apple has broken down, this should take about 4-5 minutes (see photo below). Then beat with a spoon to form a purée, season with sugar and salt to taste. If you’re a complete rookie error like me and haven’t peeled your apples, you’ll have weird slithers of skin in your sauce – if this really bothers you then you can excruciatingly pick them out or put it through a sieve.
- Back to your now tantalisingly-tender pigs cheeks. Remove them from the oven and strain the liquid into a separate pot, keep the cheeks warm. Reduce the sauce by half and then gradually add the diced butter until you have a thick sauce. Put the cheeks in the sauce and warm through.
- Give your green beans a quick steam – about 5 minutes should do it.
- To serve, put a spoonful of the mash potato in a serving bowl or on a plate. Place the pigs cheeks on top and spoon over the sauce. Serve the green beans alongside garnished with butter and salt.
- Enjoy with a glass of red wine (I drank the wine I used in the dish, which was a Castillo Del Sabio Rioja) or, for non-wine drinkers, a lovely dry cider.
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