This is a title that will polarise people – some will rush to what is actually a lovely winter recipe, and I can already see others “screwing up their faces”! If you like ‘pulled pork’ and you like slow cooked winter casseroles you will love this, trust me!! Pork cheeks are just that – PORK – with about the same meat to fat ratio as the shoulder which we use for pulled pork. The most common use for pigs’ cheeks in the UK seems to be for pork mince – I have to say – ‘what a waste!’. Often only available from farm shops – one of our local supermarkets have started stocking pigs’ cheeks – they are relatively inexpensive at around £4.50 a kilo – 4 medium to small pigs’ cheeks costing less than £2! This recipe used 12 pigs’ cheeks costing around £7 and produced a generous meal for 4
If there is any ‘silverskin’ on the cheeks this should be removed as otherwise when the cheek cooks it tends to contract and ‘roll the cheek up’ – my experience is when bought from a farm shop this has been removed – but not when bought from a supermarket! – Little traces of silverskin as in the picture left – are fine. The cheeks were salted and peppered and placed to one side
Whilst the cheeks were browning the carrots were peeled and cut into large chunks. Similarly, the onions were peeled and chopped – again into large chunks. Finally the celery was roughly chopped and the garlic was finely sliced. All these vegetables were then added to the pan in which the cheeks were cooked to both deglaze the pan and to soften and colour them lightly. Once deglazed, a little extra olive oil was added to the pan. When the vegetables were lightly coloured the pigs’ cheeks were ‘tucked in’ between them and the flour was scattered over the whole mix. The pot was seasoned with a little more salt and pepper and cooked for a few minutes and then the thyme, the bay leaves and the orange skin were added together with the stock and the wine. Whilst this can all be done on the BGE – I think it is easier to get up to this stage on a stove top. So whilst all this was being prepared the BGE was set up for indirect cooking and brought up to 140C. Once boiling the Dutch oven was placed in the BGE without the lid as the dish will not dry out and this way it will pick up a very light smoky taste, or a little stronger if some smoking wood added. The rest is simple – just leave to cook for 3 to 4 or more hours until tender. Whilst it is unlikely that the liquid will reduce too far when cooking in the EGG it is worth checking occasionally.
After a couple of hours it is worth tasting and adjusting the seasoning – adding a little fruit jelly, apple, redcurrant or the like brings out the richness of the dish, on this occasion blackcurrant coulis servedthe purpose beautifully (a little sugar would also do the job!!)
Mashed potatoes, creamed with butter and then whipped with a little double cream makes the perfect accompaniment perhaps with a little sprouting brocolli! All that is left is to serve with the other half of that bottle of red wine!
Braised pigs' cheeks
Sumptuous Pigs' cheeks braised with winter vegetables
- Olive oil
- 12 pigs' cheeks
- 3 Large carrots
- 3 Large onions (include one red one if you have it)
- 4 Sticks of celery 2
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp flour
- Big bunch of thyme
- 4 bay leaves
- Couple of pieces of Orange peel
- Half a bottle of red wine
- Some seedless fruit jelly or a little sugar or some fruit coulis
- Step 1 Remove any ‘silverskin’ on the cheeks salt and pepper and put to one side
- Step 2 Warm a little oil in a Dutch oven and brown off the pigs’ cheeks in batches – place to one side.
- Step 3 Peel the carrots and onions and cut into large chunks. Roughly chop the celery and finely slice the garlic.
- Step 4 Add all the vegetables to the pan to both deglaze the pan and to soften and colour them lightly.
- Step 5 Once deglazed and when the vegetables are lightly coloured tuck the pigs’ cheeks in amongst the vegetables. Scatter the flour over the whole mix and season with a little more salt and pepper.
- Step 6 Cook for a few minutes and then add the thyme, the bay leaves and the orange skin together with half a pint of stock and half a bottle of robust red wine.
- Step 7 Whilst this is being prepared on the stove top, set the Big Green Egg up for indirect cooking, add a little smoking wood if required and bring the temperature up to 140C.
- Step 8 Place the Dutch oven in the BGE without the lid to pick up the smoky taste
- Step 9 Leave to cook for 3 to 4 or more hours until tender.
- Step 10 Whilst it is unlikely that the liquid will reduce too far when cooking in the EGG it is worth checking occasionally.
- Step 11 After a couple of hours taste and adjust the seasoning – add a little fruit jelly, (e.g. apple or redcurrant) or the like to bring out the richness of the dish, or just a little sugar
- Step 12 Serve with creamy mashed potatoes and a little sprouting broccoli – and of course the rest of the red wine!