Slow cooked Pig Cheeks

I’m always on the lookout for cheaper cuts of meat and if it’s something new to me – all the better. So last week whilst looking around Waitrose – I spotted them selling pig cheeks. I’ve previously had ox cheek, but never before even heard of pig cheeks.

Slow Cooked Pig Cheeks in tomato ragu served on flat mushrooms with jacket potato and green beans
Slow Cooked Pig Cheeks in tomato ragu served on flat mushrooms with jacket potato and green beans

So I went away (cheekless) and did some looking up online.

What did I find?

The obvious bit of information that I already knew from cooking ox cheeks is that these need time to cook. Whilst pigs may not spend all their time eating like cows – these are muscles that get a lot of work. So that just gave me an excuse to get the trusty slow cooker out the cupboard (like I need an excuse).

I was originally just going to throw them in the slow cooker with a stew pack of veg and some stock. Boring. Then I stumbled upon this recipe at “Northsouthfood“. Sounded interesting. Never cooked with star anise, anchovy or pig cheeks. And not much-needed to be changed to make it Slimming World friendly (in fact pretty much syn free – more later).

Thrifty?

It has to be said that this did stretch my usual budget a little.

The pig cheeks in Waitrose retail at £7.99 a kilo, I believe Morrisons do them about £5 a kilo however. Alas there isn’t a Morrisons near by to cheek, sorry check. However the pack they had in the counter (I should add that these are found in the Butcher’s counter and not in the meat fridges) came to just over £3. That’s easily enough for two good meals though, or if I wanted to be stingy 3 meals.

On top of that – the rest of the ingredients probably cost another £3 (this doesn’t include the star anise as that’s now in the cupboard as a store cupboard staple). I could easily cut that to about £1.30 though or less by leaving out the Anchovy and using a cheaper brand of chopped tomato.

Ingredients

The original ingredients as listed were:

  • 4 pig cheeks, left whole but excess fat trimmed if needed
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 1 x 400ml tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 2 anchovies
  • 100ml red wine
  • 2 star anise pods
  • salt & pepper

My swaps were that I used the entire pack of cheeks (7 in total), I substituted pack of sofritto mix instead of the veg (so added onion to the mix) but that’s a) because I am no good with fine knife work, b) whilst buying 2 carrots isn’t hard, buying 2 celery stalks is – I don’t as a rule eat celery. This would mean that most of the head of celery would end up in the bin. Buying the bag of sofritto mix eliminates that waste (though possibly more expensive). Wine got replaced with a red wine stock pot (syn free). I did buy a tin of anchovies – just to try them. I’ve heard that they bring a depth of flavour (they melt into the ragu so you don’t know they are there) to the dish – may have to try without next time (it’s most definitely a dish I’m doing again).

Anchovies are synned right?

Yes – they are. However the cheap tin of anchovies in Tesco is just half a syn. I used 3 fillets (because I’m a rebel like that) and still had another 5 or 6 in the tin. So at most I used a quarter of a syn worth of Anchovy. This has provided two meals, so less than an eighth of a syn. In the rounding up/down game – this is closer to zero than it is to a half so syn count is negligible and (you mileage may vary) I’m going to say syn free.

Method

Method? What method? Trim any fat from the pig cheeks, throw everything in a slow cooker, put the lid on and turn on to high. Leave for at least 12hours. The ultimate in lazy but tasty cooking that looks like you’ve done lots of work (if you chopped your own vegetables than you have done lots of work).  I cooked mine for about 14hours and didn’t touch them till the 12hr mark when I tasted the sauce. The sauce alone is to die for. Add to that meat that is so tender that it literally melts in the mouth (assuming it doesn’t fall apart on the fork). YUMMMMMMMMMMY.

The left over pig cheeks were shredded in the sauce, put in a tub and when cooled put in the fridge ready to reheat and serve over pasta with some extra mushrooms for bulk.

Pig cheek Ragu
Left overs were as good as the first time around. This time shredded (using two forks to pull the meat apart) and then served with pasta with some extra mushrooms thrown in to bulk it out a little more.

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