If, when the Sunday roast chicken is being carved, you’re generally found eyeing up the legs, consider the cheeks used here as the piggy equivalent. They are the dark meat of the animal– juicy and, in my opinion, much more flavoursome than most other cuts. They are often ground into mince before they make it to supermarket shelves, but you can usually get them from your local butcher if you ask nicely. Cooked slowly until falling-apart tender and teamed with some complementary veggies and herbs, they make a great base for a hearty soup.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 14 oz (400 g) pigs’ cheeks, diced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
- 8 sage leaves, shredded
- 5 cups (1.2 litres) chicken stock
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- ½ cup (75 g) pearl barley
- ½ small celeriac [celery root], peeled and diced (about 250 g/9 oz prepared weight)
- 1 large pink-skinned apple, cored and diced (leave the skin on for a bit of colour)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat half the oil in a large saucepan set over high heat. Fry half of the pigs’ cheeks until taking on some colour. Transfer the meat to a plate with a slotted spoon, add the remaining oil, and fry the other half of the meat. Remove that from the pan too, then turn the heat down to low.
- Add the onion and garlic to the pan (add a tiny splash of the stock if there’s not enough oil left to stop them sticking). Cook for 10 minutes until well softened. Add the meat back in (along with any juices that may have collected on the plate) with the sage and stir together, then tip in the stock and add the bay leaves. Put a lid on the pan and increase the heat to bring the liquid to the boil, then lower the heat until it is just simmering and leave to bubble away for 1 hour.
- After an hour, add the pearl barley and celeriac and cook for 20 minutes more. Add the apple and cook for a final 5–10 minutes until the vegetables and the pearl barley are tender and the apple is softened, but not breaking down. Taste and season with salt and black pepper.
- Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve.