Piggy heaven

I’ve kind of lost my blog mojo, both in terms of writing blog posts (I’ve been meaning to blog this recipe for a couple of weeks and have failed miserably) and doing the actual dieting itself.  For reasons that I’m not going to go into here, I’m not in the greatest of places right now – every area of my life is complicated, stressful and making me sad and I have no motivation or enthusiasm to do anything but try to survive each day as best I can.  Some days it’s easier which is largely down to the fact that I have some truly incredible friends who have gone above and beyond the call of duty by putting up with me.  Other days, it’s not so easy.
Consequently, I am now at my absolute heaviest and the scary bit is I don’t think I even care that much.  I DO, as I know I look horrible and I feel uncomfortable and the numbers on the scales are frightening (not that I’ve looked at those for a few weeks) but I actually can’t be bothered to do anything about it.  I need comfort, which usually presents itself in the form of poached/scrambled/fried eggs on toast or a big pile of rice or pasta, and that’s all that I’m about right now.
This recipe is the ultimate in comforting…the most comforty comfort food I think I’ve ever had.  I grew up in a household with an AGA so casseroles, fish pies, shepherd pies and so on were what we lived on.  That, and the fact that my mum is a brilliant cook, meant that we ate fantastically well and healthily (evidenced by the fact that I only put on weight once I left home, went to university and discovered takeaway for the first time!) but, I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten anything quite as delicious as these pig cheeks.  Sorry mummy (but thank you @misswhiplash who sent me the original recipe which was in Delicious Magazine – link here!  I am forever in your debt.)
Pig cheeks with leeks and onions (makes 8 portions)
2kg pig cheeks (in my bag from @markymarket, 2 kg = 24 cheeks – perfect)
Seasoned flour
2-4 tbsp olive oil
5 onions, finely sliced
3 leeks, split lengthways down the middle and sliced finely
10 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
3 bay leaves
2 tbsp honey (runny, not set)
400ml white wine
400ml chicken stock
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
100ml half fat crème fraiche (mixed with a little cornflour)
Or in pictorial form, here they are!
Pig cheeks are amazing.  Little nuggets of loveliness, unlike the HELL ON EARTH that is an ox cheek – they’re big beasts that are nigh on impossible to get a knife through and make you sweat.  Never, ever try to prepare ox cheeks when you have a tiny baby kitten in the house as it will drive them wild and they will discover that by digging their claws into your clothes/flesh/whatever (OUCH), they can climb all the way up to your shoulder and sit there like a parrot, mewing away longingly.
But that’s by the by.  Now, I don’t know if it’s technically necessary to remove the silvery layer on the top of them (I have no idea what that is even called) but I decided to because it looks suspiciously like it may involve a bit of fat and I wanted to lose all unnecessary fat that I could.  So, trim off your pig cheeks until you have a stack of them that look beautiful, like this:
Heat up a non-stick frying pan and start rolling the cheeks in some seasoned flour.  Add as little oil to the frying pan as you can get away with and then start browning off the cheeks in batches, they’ll probably need a couple of minutes on each side.  They smell awesome.
Once they’re all browned off, leave them on a plate on the side while you get on with the vegetables.
At this point, I switched to my enormous casserole.  I debated doing this bit in fry light, that evil spray stuff, but given that the leeks and onions are supposed to caramelise, I thought that would be a bit disastrous, so I probably used around 1-2 tbsp of oil, added the leeks and onion and fried incredibly gently (lid off) for about 25 minutes, at which point they should be soft and silky and look like this:
Sprinkle in the thyme leaves, pour in the honey and increase the heat under the pan.  Cook this for a few minutes until it’s a bit sticky.  Apparently it’s meant to go a bit brown, mine didn’t and I’m fine with that.
Pop the pig cheeks into the pot, add the wine and the chicken stock, some seasoning and the bay leaves and give it a big old stir.  You need to bring this to the boil and then transfer it to the oven (around 140c – even lower if you want to cook it for longer) for a good 3-4 hours:
After several hours, check that the pig cheeks are perfect (eat a bit!  You totally deserve it) and then do a bit of fishing around for all the cheeks as they need to be taken out so you can make the sauce delicious.  Look how awesome the cheeks are!!
To make the sauce, add the mustard and the crème fraiche to the cooking liquid (don’t forget to stir cornflour into the crème fraiche before adding – @rankamateur’s top tip to stop it from splitting or forming lumps in the sauce, and it works!), bring it to the boil and reduce it so that it’s nice and thick and saucy.  Check the seasoning and then put the cheeks back in and serve, 3 cheeks per person, like this (although a carb with it would be an idea):
My ex has recently moved into a flat on his own and when I visited him about 10 days ago, I took him a few of my freezer goodies to start him off.  On Tuesday night, he had the pig cheeks.  I came into work yesterday to the following one line email:  “OMNOMNOM.”  He’s absolutely bloody right.

6 thoughts on “Piggy heaven

  1. Also omnomnomnom – I LOVE the pig cheeks :-)I also grew up with an AGA – I know it's terribly middle class and lame and all that, but I miss it So Much.It took me ages to learn to bake without it. AGES.Also – and I know this sounds a super cliched or whatever – you don't look remotely horrible – not At All.

  2. Awesome recipe! I love the idea of these pig cheeks with some floury thick noodles or maybe some gnocchi. This is a bad way for me to start the morning as my muesli is looking distinctly underpowered.

  3. @Miss Whiplash – the AGA may be middle class but OMG I WANT ONE. Thanks for saying that I don't look horrible. My mirror tells me otherwise though… :-)@The Grubworm – muesli sucks. Ditch it and get a sausage sandwich – it's your birthday tomorrow, you're allowed! I was thinking about having the cheeks with tagliatelle but wondered if I was being a mentalist – glad you agree.

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