After almost tripping over myself in excitement when I first cooked pigs cheeks in a bourbon and mustard glaze, I’ve been gagging to cook with them again. I love their sweet tenderness and strong piggy taste. And the fact that they cost 14 pence each doesn’t hurt either!
Whenever I see them in Waitrose with the little green “Forgotten Cuts” flag in them I always buy the lot. Sorry. I just can’t help myself. This is probably why you rarely find them. It’s because a few annoying gits like me always gazump them.
A dozen or so have been in Cowie’s parents’s freezer for a few months now. And with a whole weekend to play with I decided to do something special with them. Cowie and I have been discussing how to cook them so much that Cowie has been plagued by bad dreams about being attacked by evil cheekless pigs! So when I flipped through a food magazine and saw a recipe for “Beef Wellington” the penny dropped and I started sketching out my recipe. I decided to switch the mushrooms in the traditional duxelle for apricots and then bolster it up with some pig’s liver pate. See below for the recipe. I then did a quick google and didn’t get any direct hits – does that mean this recipe is a world first?
Wash and pat dry you pigs’ cheeks. Then season them generously with salt and pepper before colouring them in a hot pan. Try to avoid smoking your girlfriend’s parents’ kitchen out at midnight like I did. Then sling them into a roasting dish along with a few sage leaves and whatever booze you have to hand. I used a glass of Argentine Pinot Noir. Then put cover with foil and cook very, very slowly. I put them in the top left oven of the Aga which is normally used for plate warming and let them bubble away overnight. But if you haven’t got an Aga and are worried about leaving the oven on overnight then slow cook them for 3 or 4 hours on a very low setting.
Allow the pigs cheeks to cool and separate them from the juices.
Reduce the liquid to a syrup and add a handful of chopped dried apricots. This will become a sticky brown goo that will form the basis of the “duxelle”. Add 100 grams of pork liver pate to the brown goo and mix so that it becomes a paste. Season to taste.
Then lay a piece of cling film on a chopping board or work surface and line it with three overlapping slices of pancetta. Smear them with the “duxelle” and plop a pigs cheek in the middle. Then wrap them up into smart little parcels.
I then used an extra rasher of pancetta to hold it all together laterally.
Put these in the fridge and chill until you get around to rolling the pastry which must be done at the last possible moment to avoid soggyness.
With 40 minutes to go before you want to eat them, roll out you puff pastry and roll it around the parcels. Place on a greased baking tray and cook in a hot oven until the pastry has browned which will take around 20 minutes.
Serve to impressed guests with mashed potato, broccoli and mustard. The meat was more tender than anything I've ever eaten and the pastry was puffy and crisp. The apricot duxelle gave the pork a playful fruitiness that helped to take your mind off the richness of the pate and unctuous meat.
Who needs fillet of beef that costs and arm and a leg when you can create something that tastes much better and costs a pittance? If beef short ribs were the trendy cheap cut of 2007, lamb shanks in 2008 and pork belly in 2009, then I reckon 2010 is the year of the pig cheek.