I did say as soon as I get my hands on some pork cheeks I would make the delicious starter I had at Arbutus, and to my utter amazement (and I’m sure yours also) I was able to grab some off Morrison’s pork section in the supermarket, and at an astonishing £1.24 a pack.
To those of you that think pork cheek sounds a bit odd, they are delicious when cooked properly, with a beautiful soft texture and heaps of flavour. They need to bebraised or slowly cooked so that the meat just falls apart, otherwise they will be tough and chewy.
I thus set forth in my little London kitchen, and have conjured up a reliable recipe similar to the one served up in Arbutus the other week.
Serves 2 as a starter, or light meal:
For the crispy cheeks:300-400g pork cheeks
1 glass of red wine
500ml beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp juniper berries
1 clove garlic, peeled and bashed
2 tbsp corn flour
1 tbsp lard for frying
For the parsley puree:Large bunch of parsley, stalks removed Juice of half a lemon
100ml olive oil
3 tbsp water
1 tsp salt
½ clove garlic grated
For the Puy lentils:100g Puy Lentils
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
100ml double cream
Handful of parsley to serve (optional)
Preheat oven to 160oC
First make the parsley puree by wizzing the parsley in a blender, before adding all the remaining parsley puree ingredients, blitz until smooth and set aside until required. (You can keep this for a week in a covered jar in the fridge, great with fish!)
Season the pork cheeks generously with salt and pepper, then on a high heat sear the cheeks in a frying pan for about a minute on each side so that they brown in colour, this adds flavour to the dish. Then remove the cheeks from the pan and place in an ovenproof casserole dish. Add the wine into the hot frying pan and swill this out onto the pork cheeks, along with the stock, bay leaf, juniper berries and garlic.
Place the casserole dish with lid on (or tinfoil if you don’t have one) in the preheated oven and cook for 2 hours, or until the pork is falling apart.
Remove the pork from the liquor (you’ll need this later) in the casserole dish and place in a large bowl, shred the pork using 2 forks. When it is all shredded form into patties, about 1 per cheek (so if you had 4 cheeks this will make 4 patties), compressing them as tight as you can.
If you have a ring mould this will make them neater and firmer, but they do firm up in the fridge. Keep them in the fridge for about 20 minutes, or until you are ready for them.
Make the Puy lentils by bringing to a simmer in the vegetable stock and garlic for 20 minutes, partly covered. If you are running out of liquid add some more, after 20 minutes remove the lid, turn up the heat and add 1 tbsp of sherry vinegar cooking for a few minutes until the liquid has just about evaporated. Stir the cream into the lentils, remove from the heat, cover and set aside until required.
Take the pork cheek patties out of the fridge, put the cornflower onto a separate plate. 1 by 1, using the liquor that the pork cheeks were cooked in, dunk the pork cheeks in the liquor before dusting with the corn flour, this will help them get a real crispy edge. Melt the lard in a frying pan on a medium high heat before frying the pork cheek patties for a few minutes on each side. Let them colour and crisp up on each side before turning.
Serve by placing the puy lentils on a plate with the parsley puree, then the pork patties on top, I served this for dinner with buttered french green beans.