Thrift is a habit of mine all year round but especially at this time of year. Being freelance, it is very useful to know how to survive on very little for months at a time and even when I don’t have to think about it quite so much I still hate waste. And, in January, I rather love the inventiveness of trying to shop and spend as little as possible whilst still eating great food. This year I have the added task of cutting down on carbohydrates a few days per week which makes thrift a tad harder, since it means I can’t rely on potatoes and couscous and need to buy protein. And, whereas I can live on lentils, beans and soup in the week, by Friday I want something a little special, something that tells me that it is the weekend and there will be treats, however thrifty.
This recipe, pulled, I think, from Observer Food Monthly is perfect for such a task: pigs’ cheeks are £7.99 a kilo, even in the likes of Waitrose (see the header for proof), which means about £4 buys enough for two; the sauce is rich and luxurious, yet thickened with healthy apples, not flour or cream; and, with celeriac mash, it spoils you rotten without ruining your good intentions. This is one for the whole year, not just January.
Braised pig cheeks with celeriac and kale mash
(adapted from here)
Makes enough for two
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
olive oil, 2 tbsp
salt and pepper
butter, enough for the mash
pigs’ cheeks, 4 (about 400g)
red onions, 2
apples, 2 (I used Bramleys)
dry cider, 400ml
celeriac, 1 medium (about 400g)
kale or cavolo nero, 100g
1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC/140ºC fan-assisted/gas 3.
2. Warm the oil in a large lidded pan or casserole dish over a medium heat.
3. Whilst the oil warms up, season the pigs’ cheeks all over with salt and pepper. Then add them to the oil and brown them all over.
4. Meanwhile, peel and quarter the onions and slice thickly.
4. Once the cheeks have browned, remove them from the pan, replace with the onions and cook until soft and translucent.
5. Next, put the cheeks back in the pan, then quarter and core the apples and add them with the stock and cider. Bring to the boil, then immediately lower the heat, season, cover with a lid, and put in the oven for three hours, turning the cheeks every so often.
6. For the celeriac and kale mash, about half an hour before the cheeks are cooked, peel the celeriac, chop it into small pieces then steam or boil it until tender. At the same time, trim, chop and steam/boil the kale for a couple of minutes until just done. Once the celeriac is ready, mash it with some butter, fold in the cooked kale and season.
7. Once the cheeks are cooked, remove the pan from the oven and the cheeks from the sauce then reduce the sauce over a medium heat until it thickens. Put the cheeks back in the sauce, check the seasoning and serve with the mash.