Monday, 24 January 2011

Pork Cheeks in Belgian Abbey Ale

If you can get them, pig cheeks are a fantastic and cheap cut of meat for slow cooking. In quite a short cooking time you can achieve a very soft piece of tasty meat. I would call them "unctuous" and "melt in the mouth" if these phrases didn't turn my stomach. I've been cooking these since Waitrose started stocking them, they are so cheap that I usually take away all they have.

Browned Pork Cheeks

Serendipitously the same week we got back from Brussels, I scored a kilo of pork cheeks (for only £3!) in my local supermarket and I received twelve bottles of Adnams Belgian-style Abbey Ale from Fergus the brewer at Adnams.

For our Sunday evening meal I decided to put together this easy braise hoping that the fruity flavours from the strong Belgian style beer would go nicely with the pork. I reckon you need three cheeks per person, it may seem like a lot but they shrink quite a bit while cooking. I also think it's important to dilute the beer when doing a braise so I usually use 50:50 beer to stock. If 100% beer is used the results can be a little too bitter.
The final dish was really tasty, the beer worked very well and pork was soft, dark and satisfyingly rich.
The Final Dish.
I really need to work on my presentation and photography!

So here is the recipe.

Serves 2
Oil for frying
6 Pork cheeks - about 500g
Seasoned Flour
1 onion, sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
a couple of sprigs of thyme
a couple of bay leaves.
half a bottle of Adnams Belgian Abbey Ale (or any belgian abbey ale or any strongly flavoured ale)
250ml veg or chicken stock
1 tomato (because it was in the fridge looking sad)
Salt and pepper for seasoning.

The first thing to do with the cheeks is cut off any silverskin still left on them. No amount of slow cooking will soften this chewy connective tissue. Heat the oil in a small casserole over a medium heat. Dust the cheeks with seasoned flour and brown them on each side in the hot oil. Do this in two batches to allow for good browning and remove to a plate. Slowly fry the chopped onions and celery in the pan for about 20 mins until the onions soften and brown adding more oil if needed. Add the garlic, thyme and bay leaves and fry for a further minute. Put the cheeks back into pan and pour in the beer. Use a spatula to scrape the brown residue from the bottom of the pan. Top up with the stock and add the tomatoes. Bring up to the boil then turn down to barely simmer. Cover the pan and and simmer for one and a half hours. Serve with mash potato or if you are trying to be healthy boiled potatoes like we did.


Claire said...

I can vouch for the fact it tasted good! A nice taste of the ale without being too bittter, the pork was soft and juicy with a lovely texture. Definitely one that will be made again!

Sam said...

Someone from Welwyn loves looking at this post. So Welwynite leave a comment!

Bex said...

Gona try this one, looks well good! Can we do it in the slow cooker? What would you suggest for the timings?

Sam said...

Bex: I don't have any experience with a slow cooker I'm afraid. But in an oven I would cook it at 160 for an hour and a half. Maybe do similar. Make sure you brown the cheeks first though.

Sam said...

Scratch that Bex, didn't realise slow cooker only cooked at below 100c I have no idea how long it would take