Winter in Gran Canaria is pretty shitty as far as my definition of Winter goes.
For me it’s the season to be lighting candles, wearing fab boots, drinking red wine and getting into my jammies at 4 0’clock in the afternoon and without doubt it should be cold, not necessarily freezing my tits off cold, but cold enough to warrant the purchase of a pair of lush black leather gloves.
But in Gran Canaria Winter is more likely to mean, 25°C, beaches, sunshine, flip flops and ice-cold beers.
So in a bid to conjure up a bit of wintry-ness I turn to food and one of my fave things to cook is this slow-braised dish of pigs cheeks with rosemary, cider and apples.
PIGS CHEEKS, I hear you scream, yeah… it’s pork, now get over it!
Imagine the softest, most succulent, unctuous and richest belly pork (minus the fat) you have ever eaten, double it and that’s what pigs cheek taste like.
I have cooked them for lots of people and everyone has been freaked out by how utterly fab they are, so I really do urge you to give them a try.
You can buy prepared, boned pigs cheeks from any reputable butcher, although they might require a few days notice to order them in for you and apparently the trendy supermarket Waitrose, in the UK, sells them pre-packed.
If you are going to try one recipe of mine this has got to be the one folks.
Obligatory accompaniments for my family are always piles of soft billowy buttered mashed potatoes, jarred red cabbage and a big kick-ass glass of red wine.
Eat it and weep…
What you need
- Pigs cheeks – depending on size I’d say between 2 to 3 per person (bear in mind they shrink on cooking) Or cook extra this dish freezes amazingly well.
- 1 Large red onion finely chopped
- 300g pancetta or streaky bacon cut into small cubes
- 3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary finely chopped
- 2 medium sized carrots cut into small cubes
- 2 wine glasses of cider or red wine
- 2 tablespoons of plain flour
- salt & pepper
What you do
Trim off any excess fat from the pigs cheeks and season all over with salt & pepper.
(Don’t go mad trimming them, just really remove any sinewy stuff, the marbling throughout the cheeks melts on cooking and it’s what makes the meat so succulent.)
Seal the cheeks in a hot frying pan with a splash of olive oil. Do this in batches, if you overcrowd the pan the meat will begin to give off steam and it won’t brown.
Just pop them in the pan and leave them for a few minutes on each side and don’t be tempted to fanny around moving them about, leave them sizzle. Set aside.
In the same pan fry off the bacon until crisp, I bloody forgot to photograph this bit, Grrrrrr… set aside with the cheeks.
Now in a heavy based casserole dish place the cheeks, bacon, onion, carrots, garlic & fresh rosemary, you’ll probably have a few layers. Sprinkle over the flour and give it all a gentle stir, or until the flour has disappeared.
Add the cider or red wine, and another wine glass of water, season with plenty of black pepper & a good sprinkling of salt. Stir well.
(You might need to top up with a little extra water on cooking. Although you’re looking for a thick, rich juice rather than a load of runny gravy.)
Cover with a tight fitting lid or foil and cook in a pre-heated oven of 160C/gas mark 3 for about 2 hours.
Check half way through as it might require a sweetening, I either use cranberry jelly or simply a few teaspoons of sugar.
Once the meat is meltingly tender, check for seasoning and then serve with a pile of buttery mash, jarred warm red cabbage & lots of homemade apple sauce!
The apple sauce is simply cooking apples, peeled and thinly sliced, cooked with a dollop of butter and another dollop of brown sugar.
Cook till soft then place into a tall jug and blitz with a hand blender, season with black pepper.
Real mash, made with floury potatoes, hot milk and salted butter, oh dear God in heaven… LUSH!
Oh yeah, there must be red wine, absolutely non-negotiable!
Lots of red wine – Cheers x
Now what about you? What’s your ultimate comfort food?