So many recipes lately! Can you tell I just haven’t been eating out very often? Anyway, that lengthy period should come to an end now as my major deadline has been met and I’m feeling much much freer. This was something I cooked one Saturday as I worked from home – it’s very much a chuck it all in there and let it simmer away dish and so not much work is required.
I bought eight pig cheeks from Waitrose while on my way home one night and marvelled at the cheapness of the cut – only £1.90 for the eight. I remembered a huge dish of pig cheeks (on the bone) I had at a Catalan restaurant outside Barcelona and marvelled at their tenderness and flavour. I’d also seen how easy they were to cook on Jonathan’s blog Around Britain with a Paunch and was keen to try cooking with some myself. With such a cheap cut, they require long and slow cooking to get the meat tender (you could see the meat fibres zigzagging in direction through the cut). They’re very very meaty yet a bit fatty and a bit gelatinous at the same time. Can you imagine their amazing texture already?
The cheeks were purchased with the intention to red cook them and serve them over noodles, as inspired by 3 hungry tummies. Braising was perfect for this cut, the meaty cheeks were as tender as you’d want them to be, absolutely melting in the mouth. The braising liquid should definitely be served too; it’s very rich (with all the fat and gelatin melting into it) and nicely spiced (overly spiced if you used ridiculously hot dried chilies like I did). Al dente noodles and crunchy sugar snap peas rounded out the meal nicely. If you’re unable to get pig cheeks, substitute with pork belly. Likewise, rice would also be good instead of noodles.
Red-Cooked Pig Cheeks
8 pig cheeks (as bought in Waitrose)
2 tbsps oil
2 tbsps sugar
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
2 star anise
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 dried chilies
small knob of ginger, sliced
2 spring onions, torn into 2-3 inch pieces
2 tbsps soy sauce
1 tbsp dark, thick caramel soy sauce
sugar and salt to taste
1 tsp cornstarch/cornflour
Trim the pig cheeks of any bone slivers or extra fat and sinew. Bring a pot of water to the boil. Add all the pig cheeks and cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Heat an empty pot (use the same one by all means) over medium heat. Add the oil and the sugar and leave until the sugar melts and goes golden brown. Add the pig cheeks and the Shaoxing wine and then pour in water until the pork is covered. Add the spices, the ginger, and spring onions and the soy sauces and bring the whole thing to a boil. Lower the heat and keep it at a simmer for 2 hours. Keep it topped up with water if it goes dry halfway through.
Towards the end of the cooking time, turn up the heat and boil away the liquid until it has thickened. Use the cornflour to thicken it further if desired (cornflour mixed with cold water and then dumped into the hot liquid).
Serve on top of noodles or with some white rice. I sliced each pig cheek first – it’s quite a large lump of meat otherwise.