In the recent light of nose to tail eating, this recipe looks at using an understated cut from the pig’s head. Pig cheeks are packed full of flavour and are a frugal alternative to more decadent cuts such as pork belly. Braising low and slow achieves meltingly tender, sweet meat – gentle, long cooking is vital otherwise the meat becomes too tough.
Enhance it sweet flavours by braising in this delicious cooking liquor of orange, ginger and honey and serving with creamy mashed potato. The perfect economical meal for all the family.
ORANGE, GINGER & HONEY BRAISED PIG CHEEKS
2 large oranges
1 large thumb of root ginger (approx. 50g)
3 tbsp runny honey
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
8 pig cheeks
oil, for frying
1 stalk of celery
1 large carrot
500ml chicken stock
In a large dish combine the zest and juice of 1 orange, half the ginger, finely grated, and 1 tbsp of honey. Stir in the cider vinegar, worcestershire sauce and a pinch of salt and pepper before laying the pig cheeks in the marinade. Allow to marinate for at least an hour.
Heat the oil in a frying pan. Peel and cut the shallots in half before adding to the pan. Cook on high heat for 3 – 4 minutes, or until golden and slightly caramelised – set aside. Finely dice the celery, carrot and remaining ginger before gently frying for 5 minutes over a medium heat. Tip the vegetables into a large casserole dish along with the shallots.
Heat a little more oil in the pan before taking the cheeks out of the marinade and browning in batches. Remove from the pan once caramelised on both sides – repeat for all the cheeks. Add to the casserole dish before pouring the left over marinade into the frying pan. Add another tbsp of honey, hot chicken stock and 1/2 the juice and zest of another orange – season and bring to a simmer.
Pour the sauce into the casserole dish ensuring the cheeks are submerged in the liquor. Cover with a lid and place in a pre-heated oven at 140C and cook for 2 1/2hrs. In the last 30 minutes, remove the lid to allow the sauce to slightly reduce.
Remove from oven and strain the cooking liquor from the cheeks and vegetables. Return the meat and vegetables to the lidded casserole dish to keep warm. Pour the liquid into a heavy-bottomed pan adding the last of the honey and orange juice and zest. Bring to a rapid simmer and allow to reduce for 10 minutes skimming off any oily residue on the surface.
Once reduced to a thick, glossy sauce, return the cheeks, shallots and vegetables to the pan to warm through and coat in the sauce. Serve with seasonal greens and creamy mash potato.
Recipe by Helen Upshall