Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Back in the kitchen

I've been away from the kitchen for a few weeks after major surgery. I'm fine now but get tired easily at present so the kitchen has been for tea and soup. Today I ventured up to town and realised I was ready to get back in the kitchen. It was about lunchtime and my local Waitrose had put out some discounted meats. I spotted a favorite at a silly price, four pigs cheeks for £1.49 (reduced from £2.49). These are cheap at the best of times but these were a bargain. Three packs later I hunted down a bottle of Heston's mulled cider and headed home.

I've used a sous vide to cook this but because the temperature is so high then a standard slow cooker can be used. The sous vide lets me cook this at 82.5C but anything around 80C will be fine.

Firstly I put a heavy pan on the heat and, after seasoning the cheeks, browned them off. I took the cheeks off the heat and added 6 crushed cloves of garlic to the pan and 50ml of olive oil. After about 30 seconds I added 350ml of the spiced cider to deglaze the pan. Now it is time for the long wait. I bagged the cheeks into three bags along with a sprig of rosemary and a bay leaf. The bags were then cooked in the sous vide for eight hours. If using a slow cooker I would be tempted to ziplock bag the cheeks into three bags and cook them in water in a slow cooker. Remember, you could equally cook just 4 cheeks with 2 cloves of garlic and 110ml of spiced cider for this part of the recipe.

After cooking over night, chill the bagged cheeks in iced water and then leave in the fridge for up to 48 hours (or freeze for later) before finishing the dish off for serving.

Serving (for the contents of one bag):

Place a heavy casserole pan on a stove and add a tablespoons of olive oil. Fry off 100g of lardons and 150g of slice shallots. Add 300 ml of spiced cider to de-glaze the pan and add two sliced, large carrots and a chopped celery stick. Add tbsp of balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp of soy sauce, and 1 tbsp of maple syrup ( or sugar/honey). Lower the heat, place a lid on the pan and simmer for 20 minutes making sure that the pan does not catch. Add more mulled cider (or water) if necessary. Next add the cheeks and the juices from the pouch and bring back to a simmer. Simmer for a further 20 minutes so that the cheeks are warmed through. Remove the cheeks and place in foil to rest. Turn the heat up under the remaining sauce and reduce until it coats the carrots. Serve with a puree of butter beans (a little cream and butter to taste).

This is a delicious way to use a very cheap cut of meat. Serve it to the most discerning guest and watch them wax lyrical about the flavours and textures.