Helen and I have a shared calendar which appears on both our phones. It makes for amusing moments when I get an alert that I have a hair appointment on Friday evening or that I have drinks with ‘the girls’ on Wednesday night…
Even with our synchronised diaries (although I should point out it’s mostly me trying to keep up with her more sociable lifestyle) I constantly get surprised.
And so, I lovingly made this dish last week, starting the cooking the night before only for my phone calendar to remind me she was having dinner with a friend that night. Worse, the venue was the sort of place with more microwaves than hob rings. Humph.
Undeterred I made this anyway and I’m glad I did, as was Helen when she returned having only eaten half her nuked dinner 😉
Pork cheeks are another one of those slow cooked, cheap-as-chips cuts that deliver massively on flavour. I really should have learned from Conor’s advice about publicising this sort of thing for economic reasons though.
I braised the cheeks in cider and stock in a casserole pot on a low heat the previous evening and warmed them back through the day I served them. Most of the cooking liquor had concentrated up nicely and they were naturally melt-in-the-mouth tender.
Champ is an Irish recipe for mashed potato, using butter, milk and spring onions. Strangely, I’d only recently come across it and I’m glad I did. I did a little research and cobbled this together from a few sources. I hope it’s fairly authentic…
- 500g pork cheeks, trimmed and sinews removed
- 1 bottle (500ml) good dry cider
- 250ml chicken stock
- A medium carrot, 1 stick of celery (snap in two) and half an onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- A little oil
- 4 large handfuls of spinach
For the Champ:
- 2 large floury potatoes, peeled
- 3 spring onions/scallions finely chopped
- About 50ml whole milk, warmed
- 1-2 tbsp butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
Start by frying the pork cheeks in an ovenproof pan or casserole pot until well coloured. Deglaze with a little cider and add the vegetables. Add the rest of the cider and stock and place in an oven at about 140°C/275ºF for 5 hours at least. Leave to rest overnight.
The next day, reheat the pork cheeks on the hob. Reduce the liquor down if needed with the lid off, until the flavours concentrate – taste as you do. Strain and reserve the cooking liquid as a nice gravy and keep warm. A knob of butter stirred in at this stage is a delicious, if unhealthy addition 😉
Quarter and boil the potatoes (15min). Then, drain and mash, using a potato ricer if possible, melt in the butter and then the warmed milk, until smooth but not too ‘wet’. Finally, stir in the spring onion. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.
Lastly, wilt the spinach in a large shallow pan with a little boiling water for a couple of minutes. Remove and squeeze the excess water out using a sieve and the back of a large spoon (or in your hands).
Serve it all up and enjoy.