I think it is probably safe to say that summer is over. The weather here in the UK has turned distinctly autumnal.
One of the good things about a change in season to cooler temperatures is stews and casseroles, because, let’s face it, they always seem a little out-of-place in the summer. They are a comfort food, to be consumed with mounds of cozy starch and a spoon, all whilst wearing your PJs (or other such comfy clothing), candles flickering and a log fire crackling. Am I getting a bit carried away now??
Anyway . . .
I have never had pork cheeks before, and apart from knowing that they need to be slow-cooked, I knew little else and had no idea what to expect on the flavour front.
Let’s start with a little bit of background info – these pork cheeks come from black piggies of the Iberian breed whose origins can be traced back thousands of years. They are allowed to wander freely and snuffle around eating herbs, grass and sweet acorns. The cut itself is unique and is often referred to as “the other red meat”. The meat itself is lean but also meaty.
So . . . I found a recipe, tweaked it and threw everything into a dish and popped it in the oven – another great thing about stews and casseroles is that they only require one pot and once in the oven you can leave them to get on with it.
The result – a delicious dish of incredibly meaty meat! The comment about it being the other red meat is true as the cheeks themselves do taste more like beef than pork. After 3 hours of cooking they are meltingly tender and really sweet.
These pork cheek are a great alternative to more traditional meats used in stews and make a pleasant change if you are looking for something a little different. I would highly recommend them!
Slow Cooked Iberico Pork Cheeks
- a little olive oil
- 8 pork cheeks, approximately
- 3 carrots, peeled & cut into thick slices
- 2 white onions, peeled & chopped
- 1 red onion, peeled & chopped
- 2 celery stalks, topped & tailed and sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled & sliced
- generous bunch of fresh thyme (or a shake or two of dried)
- small piece of orange peel
- 3 bay leaves
- 400ml ham stock (from a cube is fine)
- 350ml red wine
- 2 heaped tsp cornflour + a little cold water to mix
- salt & pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 160 Celsius / 140 fan / 320 Fahrenheit.
- In a heavy based pan or dish, warm a thin layer of olive oil. Season the pork cheeks with salt & pepper and brown slightly on both sides. Remove from the dish and set aside.
- Add the carrots, onions, celery and garlic to the dish and cook until the onions have softened.
- Return the cheeks to the dish, tucking them amongst the veggies. Add the thyme, orange peel, bay leaves, stock and wine. Bring to the boil then cover and place in the oven for two and a half to three hours.
- Remove the dish from the oven and place over a medium heat. Mix the cornflour and water together to form a slurry and add to the pork cheeks, stirring well. Bring back up to the boil and cook until the sauce has thickened.
- Season with salt & pepper.
- Serve with a mound of mashed potato and green veg.
Note – can be made in advance, just follow steps 1-4. Re-heat and thicken the sauce just before serving.
© The Pink Rose Bakery 2015
Recipe adapted from Nigel Slater’s Pig Cheek Recipe on the Guardian.
Disclaimer – although I was provided with the pork cheeks free of charge, all opinions are my own.