Braised Pork Cheeks with Blood Orange and Chilli

Braised pork cheeks with mexican rice

The terrible pictures are back, did you miss them?

I am incredibly easy to influence, my subconscious soaks up anything I’m exposed to like a thirsty sponge. If I’m watching TV and someone has a cup of tea, I will want a cup of tea. If in the next scene they’re drinking a glass of orange juice I will want a glass of orange juice. Sometimes just asking me if I want something is enough to plant the suggestion in my head that I do.

So when a few weeks ago two separate blog posts from Carla at Can be Bribed with Food and Helen at Food Stories both appeared in my Google Reader with recipes for slow braised pork cheeks in blood orange and chipotle I knew exactly what I had to do.

Pork cheeks seem to be in vogue at the moment, which is perhaps another reason why I felt so drawn to cooking them. The new “forgotten cut” which everyone has suddenly remembered, like pork belly but for 2011. My rambling talk of pig cheeks over on Twitter even sparked interest in and of itself, with Guardian food writer Tim Hayward questioning “why is the world suddenly awash with pigs cheeks” and what were they doing with them before? (Our best bet was sausages.) I’m not sure why pork cheeks are suddenly fashionable again, although perhaps it has something to do with this recipe from Ravinder Bhogal and its appearance on last autumn’s Food programme on channel 4.

All I know is for the time being they’re cheap, easy to cook, delicious and did I mention really cheap? I got 8 cheeks for £2.50 from Morrisons, who by the way have a shockingly good range of these sorts of “forgotten cuts” and offal. Cheaper still though were Waitrose where 1kg of cheeks would set you back a mere £2.99, compared to £4.29 per kg in Morrisons. That was the second shock of the evening amongst my Facebook friends who refused to believe that Waitrose could be cheaper on anything. Unfortunately at that price Waitrose had understandably sold out and I’ll be very surprised if they stay that cheap for much longer.

So what did I do with my pork cheek bounty? Well as I mentioned I’d recently seen two mouthwatering posts which slow braised them in blood orange and chipotle chilli. As I couldn’t decide which recipe I wanted to follow I decided to combine the two and came up with this. Unfortunately I didn’t have any chipotle so I had to make do with ordinary dried chillies instead. The chocolate was added as a last minute thought before serving. I’d tasted it and thought there was something missing. Food Stories’ recipe had added sugar, but Can be Bribed with Food’s hadn’t and I’d so far opted to go without too. Then it hit me, that piece of advice about Mexican cooking which I’d read so many times but had never actually followed; to add a few squares of chocolate right at the end. And I think it really worked.

I served this with Mexican Rice, the recipe for which I cobbled together from various places on the internet. I’d wanted to add fresh guacamole on top too, but unfortunately my damn avocado wasn’t ripe yet. I had it with the leftovers a few days later though and it was still really good then.

Braised Pork Cheeks with Blood Orange and Chilli

Serves 4 hungry people or 6 not so hungry people

  • 8 pork cheeks (about 500g)
  • 2 carrots, very finely chopped (I whizzed them in my food processor)
  • 2 celery sticks, very finely chopped (food processor again)
  • 2 small or 1 large onion, very finely chopped (I really love my food processor)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 4 whole dried chillies, chopped up or ground (less if you don’t want it too spicy)
  • zest and juice of 2 blood oranges
  • 1tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2tbsp(ish) flour
  • 1tbsp(ish) oil
  • 3-4 squares of good quality dark chocolate
  • fresh coriander chopped

Turn on the oven and heat to 170C/fan 150C/gas 3. If like me you don’t have a lidded casserole dish that works on the hob, pop one in the oven to pre-heat instead and use a frying pan for the next bit.

Toss the pork cheeks in the flour to give them all a good coating. In a lidded hob proof casserole pan if you have one, or a frying pan if you don’t, heat the oil and brown the cheeks off on all sides. Remove from pan and leave on a plate to one side.

Add the chopped veg to the pan and fry for 5 minutes or so until softened. If using, remove the casserole dish from oven and add the veg and pork cheeks. If you’re using the same pan just pop the pork cheeks back in with the veg. Use the blood orange juice to de-glaze any sticky brown bits from frying pan if used and pour into casserole dish.

Add the zest, tomato purée and all the spices. You can put the spices into a little muslin pouch or risk picking them out whilst you’re eating later like me. Top up with enough water to ensure pork cheeks are covered. Put the lid back on and cook for 3 – 3 1/2 hours in oven at 170C/fan 150C/gas 3. I just ignored mine and it was fine but it might be worth checking half way though and topping up with a little more water if it looks to be drying out.

After three hours take pan out of the oven. Remove any spices you can see that have floated to the top, or just fish the muslin bag out if you were clever. Use two forks to shred the cheeks into the sauce. Add the chocolate squares, pop lid back on and rest for 5 minutes or so.

After resting stir in the melted chocolate, taste, season as necessary with salt and pepper and stir in chopped coriander.

Mexican Rice

Serves 4 hungry people or 6 not so hungry people

  • 225g rice
  • 250ml water
  • 250g plum tomatoes, whizzed in a food processor
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed open with the broad side of a knife
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1tsp coriander
  • 1tbsp(ish) oil
  • A pinch of salt

In a medium sized lidded pan heat the oil and add rice. Stir until coated then cook for about 1 minute or so, stirring regularly. Add the water, tomatoes, garlic and spices and season with a pinch of salt.

Bring to the boil cover and cook for around 15 minutes until all the water has dissolved.

Fluff up with with a fork and serve.

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5 responses to “Braised Pork Cheeks with Blood Orange and Chilli

  1. No photos of the finished dish? 😦

  2. They look lovely Becca!

    Waitrose is often cheaper on random stuff. Especially the Cooks’ Ingredients dried beans, grains and pulses.

    Sadly I do not have a Morrisons near to me.

  3. This sounds pretty tasty – and I do love a good cheek, perfect slow cooking dish. I really like the combo of blood orange with the rich meat, the gentle acidity will really balance the dish.

  4. Kavey – There is a photo at the top, is that not visible in your browser?

    Helen – I have found before that Waitrose can be cheaper on certain items, and for a better quality. No-one ever believes me though!

    The Grubworm – It really did work well. You can thank Carla and Helen for their respective recipes really though, that’s where I got the idea and what I based this on.

  5. Pingback: Adventures into Oxtail Ragu and Polenta | How to Make a Mess

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