Over the years, many cuts of meat have come through via restaurants or to the kitchen table, having previously spent a long time in the wilderness, only to be thrust suddenly into the limelight. The classic example is the lamb shank. Shunned for years, it laboured on with the stigma of being a relatively poor piece of meat, both in quality and cost. Until the penny dropped and people discovered that it was in fact, a gorgeously rich joint; where slivers and chunks would simply fall off the bone. If slowly braised or stewed with wine and vegetables that is. How this came to pass, who is to say? Perhaps it was down to the explosion of cheap flights to Greece in the late 90's. Or maybe Fergus Henderson had something to do with it. (Although that said - marrow, heart and tongue is very much his bag.) Or everyone simply started to listening to their Nan once again.
Whatever. The point being, is that lamb shanks were pretty much classed as offal, once upon a time. However, thankfully, we are all opening our eyes to the 'fifth quarter' - as a focus on nose-to-tail eating and eliminating food waste continues to grow from strength to strength. Couple that with our commitment to sourcing ethical meat, even the 'frugal' cuts, from British native breeds reared on independent farms and smallholdings; well, suddenly it all becomes a lot more appealing.
One cut that we have seen a rising interest in at Turner & George, are ox and pig cheeks. Hard working muscles that on first sight, don't look particularly appealing. But given time, care and encouragement, they soon reward with the most delicate and melting of bites. Pig cheeks, with a vein of gelatine running through them, seem to deliver a slightly more refined and silky note to dishes in my opinion. And so if I had to choose, then these nuggets of porcine joy would just edge out the darker, more robust and stronger flavoured ox. Only just mind.
This recipe, by Richard H. Turner, is very straight forward and easy to do. You only need to keep an eye on proceedings and give everything a stir once in a while. Along with a sneaky taste when no-one is looking. If you like things 'hot' then stick with the amount of chilli prescribed but obviously, if you want to tone things down a touch, hold back a couple of jalapeno fingers.
Rather than keep them whole, I always like to shred pig cheeks a touch at the end before serving, for a bit of texture. But keeping them whole might be a better touch. Much better for the person in question to sink their knife in and gently prise apart themselves.
Much more enjoyable.
- Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot on the hob over a high heat, brown all the meats then remove. You may have to do this in batches.
- Next, fry your cooking chorizo off, stirring until it begins to sizzle and release oil, then remove.
- Now, add the onions and sweat until softened, and then add the garlic and chilli and cook for another two minutes.
- Add the bay, cinnamon, hot paprika, oregano, white wine vinegar and stir through and then place the browned pork cheeks and chorizo back on top.
- Finally pour over the chopped tomatoes and gently fold in.
- Bring to boil and then simmer gently over a low heat, stirring regularly
- Continue to cook, low and slow, for at least 2 hours or until the meat is tender
- Correct seasoning according to taste towards the end of cooking
- Serve with rice or tortilla chips with bread for dipping