There are certain dishes that are never going to be particularly photogenic. And, as readers of this blog know, I have a way of making even the photogenic ones look like piles of pallid mush. So rather than attempt to photograph pulled pork, here is a photograph of a pig ornament. And my cat.
So a few weeks ago, a lovely man called Chris emailed me and asked me if I’d like some meat and some alcohol. I attempted to be cool but my reaction was probably more along the lines of SQUEEEEEEEEEEE. Chris, bless him, didn’t seem fazed by the over enthusiasm and duly sent along some pig cheeks and a bottle of Fino sherry. Chris, you see, works for a company called Grey’s Fine Foods.
I’ll fully admit, not a site that was on my radar at all which is extremely sad because I have been missing out on some real treats. They specialise in all things Spanish – and the charcuterie selection, in particular, is a thing of beauty and absolute joy forever. Plus it is a Yorkshire based company and I love to bang the drum for all things Yorkshire. So do, please, go along and have a little look. Several of my family members may well be getting Spanish foodie treats for Christmas.
We’ve cooked with pig cheeks before but these were a class apart – thick, a nice marbling of fat (obviously very jowly pigs) and full of deep, almost gamey flavour. After an overnight sojourn in the slow cooker they fell apart as the prod of a fork. Perfect for a slightly Spanish twist on pulled pork.
I served the below in a boccadillo – which is basically a Spanish sandwich, traditionally served in a sub-type roll. I made a delicious loaf of rustic Spanish bread from this Hairy Bikers recipe and then smeared it with tomato and aioli and stacked up the warm pork and thin, crispy slices of chorizo. It was all kinds of messy wonderful. But this recipe would also be great with mashed potato, or patatas bravas, or a Spanish-ey mac and cheese or (and this has only just occurred to me) a veggie paella-type rice thing.
One pack of cheeks, at £16.50 made six extremely generous portions. But obviously this recipe could be scaled up or down to suit.
10-12 (about 1.5 kg) pig cheeks
Flour, for dusting
Tbsp. olive oil
200ml Fino sherry
Hefty pinch of saffron
Tsp. smoked paprika
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
Tbsp. tomato puree
2 onions, roughly quartered
2 carrots, roughly quartered
2 sticks of celery, roughly quartered
4-5 fat garlic cloves (no need to peel)
Several sprigs of fresh thyme
100ml chicken stock
Handful of black olives, chopped
Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Serves 6, 10 pro points per portion
Measure out your sherry and add the saffron to infuse.
In the bottom of your slow cooker (or in a casserole dish if making in the oven), make a trivet of the roughly chopped vegetables and the fresh thyme.
Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Dust the cheeks with flour and a good whack of salt and pepper. Then cook in the oil for a couple of minutes on each side until they have started to colour. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your pan. As they are browned off, transfer them to the slow cooker (or casserole dish).
Turn the heat down and pour the saffron-coloured sherry into the pan to deglaze, using a wooden spoon to make sure you get up all the tasty, crusty bits. Add the paprika, cayenne, and tomato puree and bubble together for about five minutes to reduce. Now pour in the chicken stock, and again reduce slightly before transferring to the slow cooker. Cook, on a low heat, for at least 8 hours – overnight is fine (probably about 120-150 if doing in the oven).
When the cheeks are cooked and cooled, remove from the dish with a slotted spoon and shred. They should be tender as anything at this stage. Strain the remaining juices through a sieve over the shredded pork, making sure to squish all the vegetables to get every drop of flavour.
Stir through the balsamic vinegar and the chopped olives, and adjust the seasoning as desired.