Pig cheeks are a tender and flavoursome cut of meat that is not widely used in the UK. It is very popular in Italy and Spain, and most people try it for the first time when they are abroad. However, once you have eaten these unctuous little nuggets of deliciousness, you will want to cook them for yourself. The secret is in slow cooking, at a low temperature. Most good butchers will either have them, or order them for you. The recipe is very simple, so go on, and treat yourself!
- 12 pig cheeks
- 2 celery sticks, chopped in 1cm chunks
- 3 carrots, chopped in 1cm chunks
- 1 echalion (banana) shallot
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- a sprig of thyme, leaves only
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ a star anise
- 300ml Marsala or Madeira wine
- 400ml chicken
- 40g plain flour
- 1 tsp sea salt,
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 3 tbsp groundnut oil
- Heat the oven to 300°F/150°C /130°C Fan.
- Heat a non-stick sauté pan over a hot and add 1 tablespoon of oil.
- Place the vegetables, crushed garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and star anise in the bottom of an oven-proof casserole dish; the dish should be able to fit the pigs cheeks in one layer.
- Trim any excess fat and sinew from the pig cheeks.
- Season the flour with the sea salt and black pepper, and coat four of the pig cheeks in the seasoned flour.
- Brown the pig cheeks in the oil – about 2 minutes a side and put them on top of the vegetables in the casserole dish.
- Continue coating and browning the pig cheeks in batches of four, adding more oil if required, and add them to the casserole dish so that you have one layer of meat on top of the vegetables.
- Now de-glaze the sauté pan with the wine, and add the wine and juices to the casserole dish.
- Pour the chicken stock into the casserole dish, so that the pig cheeks are just showing above the surface of the liquid.
- Crumple up a sheet of baking paper and wet it under a tap. Now unfold the paper and use it to cover the meat, tucking it down at the sides.
- Place the dish in the heated oven and cook for 1 hour.
- Turn over each pig cheek, cover again and cook for another 1 hour and 20 minutes. The pig cheeks should now be tender and nicely brown.
- Carefully remove the pig cheeks and vegetables and set aside, and keep warm
- Strain the gravy into a small saucepan, bring to the boil, and reduce the volume by half.
- Return the vegetables and meat to the casserole, and pour the reduce sauce over them. Cover again and re-heat in the oven for ten minutes.
- Serve with buttery mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.