Yes, I admit it, I’ve been a complete slacker when it comes to writing new posts for this page. Mugsie obviously has much more free time on his hands!!
But I have been making some new discoveries in the kitchen and this has been another that scores highly on our ‘Bargain Betty’ scale of frugality.
It is good, simple cooking with good, simple ingredients – but packed with flavour. And about 20 minutes of prep will give you the rest of the day to catch up on all those ‘box-sets’ you’ve stored up on your TV recorder!
The main ingredient is something that has recently started to appear on the shelves of our local Morrisons. Both Mugsie and I are firm fans of Lidl for decent quality ingredients, but I do go further afield in my shopping (My Mum prefers to get her goat’s milk from Morrisons… and you know what she’s like with her intolerance’s!) so I get to see what’s available or new elsewhere.
Morrisons has a strange meat department that throws up some items you won’t see in any other supermarket, but they also have a couple of quirks that don’t endear themselves to me greatly. I’ll elaborate below… but let’s get this recipe started.
The two key players in today’s effort are PIGS CHEEKS and my trusty SLOW-COOKER.
I’d only ever come across Ox-cheeks before and used them in slow-cooked stews and curries. They are now my first choice for anything that involves beef and a slow-cooker and really can’t be beaten for richness and depth of flavour.
… There you have them!
They share some similarities with the ox-cheek. You can see that there is a lot of connective tissue running through them and that takes a long time to break down… hence the slow-cooker. But once they do, they add to the richness and intensity of the final dish.
Some of the other basics are pictured below…
It’s a casserole, so these are the basics that will go with any stew you ever want to make. Carrots, Onion and Celery and some Mushrooms – to which I also added a vegetable stock when topping up the slow-cooker.
There are always a couple of other special extra’s in everything we cook because that’s what it’s all about. But essentially, everything gets chopped up and chucked in the cooker.
There are different schools of thought when it comes to slow-cookers and how much pre-preparation is needed. It is possible to just throw everything in, stir it and leave it at that. At other times, you might want to seer your meat, giving it some colour, or dredge it in flour to help thicken the stew… to be perfectly honest, I think that you just go with what you feel like. Time was pressing, so this all got chucked in.
The extras that brought this dish up to ‘scrumptious’ level were as follows. CIDER, CALVADOS JELLY (home-made, of course), MIXED GREEK HERBS (heavy on the thyme and oregano) and, for the end, some CREME FRAICHE d’ISIGNY.
Add the vegetables, pork, herbs, cider and stock to the slow-cooker and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Then turn on the cooker and go wild!! The rest of the day is yours to recreate whatever kinky fantasy takes your fancy!
The only thing to do as far as tinkering with this is after about 5 hours, when all the ingredients have gotten intimate with eachother, is have a quick taste and then add the Calvados Jelly (I used about a tablespoon – but that might depend upon what cider was used in the first place) and, if needed, some additional salt and pepper.
Mine stayed in the cooker for about ten hours (My fantasies tend to take about that long… I’ve got a fertile imagination!) and then was served with potatoes and veg… whatever is to hand or suits your taste.
You can see the pork shrinks down and takes on colour from the cooking process, so no real need for pre-cooking it.
The final touch was to add a large dollop of the creme-fraiche to just give the sauce a little velvety lift!
It had everything going for it… savoury with a hint of apple sweetness, an intense, meaty unctuousness (hat’s off to Michel Roux Jr for that) with a wonderful herby back note on the palate.
I can’t remember what exactly was the wine of choice at the time, but given our personal taste and the time of year, I would hazard a guess at a Rioja – but anything full-bodied would do.
Morrisons… and their weird approach to meat. They have an interesting selection sometimes, which now has them regularly stocking pig’s cheeks, pig’s trotters (I’m building myself up for them) and pig skin (to make your own crackling).
On the other hand, whenever I see meat that has been cut by their in-house butcher, I am always horrified at how crap their knife skills (or eyesight) must be. To meat retailers around the world I ask you this one question… WHAT IS THE FECKING POINT OF CUTTING A PIECE OF RIBEYE STEAK THAT IS 2″ THICK AT ONE SIDE AND 1/2″ THICK AT THE OTHER???? SERIOUSLY??? I’ve seen so many cuts of meat rendered virtually unusable by some numpty they have working there! Shocking!