July 24th, 2009


Potted Pigs’ Cheeks with Pea Custard

The inspiration for this dish came from the Great British menu. I liked  both Nigel Haworth’s approach to create a taste of home with a slight twist and the little pots that he used. Then I’m a fool for beautiful glasses, crockery and anything that is cute. I was looking for something similar,but with no luck I had to settle for a glass yogurt jar.

The additional inspiration came from an alternative dish I used to make, a luxurious shepherds pie made with confit shoulder of lamb. I applied the same principles but substituted the shoulder of lamb with the pigs cheeks. You might find pigs cheeks a bit odd but I think they are brilliant, plenty of meat, hardly any fat and when cooked under pressure they are even more tasty.

This dish is perfect to enjoy on the patio with a chilled glass of English rose and a generous slice of fresh sour dough bread. If you use jars with lids it will be perfect to take on a picnic on a sunny summers day.

The real reason for creating this dish was to celebrate peas, here are a few of my favourite pea recipes.

For the potted pigs' cheeks

  • 280g pigs' cheeks
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly cracked black pepper and coarse sea salt
  • 1 sprig of savory, thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 100g finely diced banana shallots
  • 4tbs chopped chives, chervil and savory

Preheat the water bath to 82°C.

Remove any excess fat, skin or sinew from the cheeks. Wash them under cold running water and pat dry. Season the cheeks with freshly cracked black pepper and coarse sea salt.

Place the cheeks along with a lightly bruised garlic clove, cloves, 30ml extra virgin olive oil, sprig of savory, thyme and bay leaf in a clean vacuum bag. Seal on hard vacuum.

Cook the cheeks in the preheated water bath for 12 hours.

Once the cheeks are cooked, remove them from the bag. Pass the rendered juices through a fine sieve or muslin cloth and flake the meat.

Heat a non-stick sauté pan with the rest of the oil and banana shallots and season lightly. Sauté the shallots until they start to turn transparent, add the flaked meat and the cooking liquid. Gently simmer over low heat until the liquid reduces to a sticky glaze.

Check the seasoning and fold in a generous amount of  the chopped herbs ( chervil, chives and savory.)

Fill four 150ml glass jars halfway with the meat and place the pots on a tray ready for the pea custard.

For the pea custard

  • 150g fresh garden peas, podded
  • 150ml white chicken stock
  • 1g agar-agar powder
  • 50ml double cream
  • Freshly cracked black pepper and coarse sea salt
  • 1tsp chopped fresh savory

Pod and rinse the peas. Blanch them in a pan of salted rapid boiling water, until al dente, refresh in iced water.

Place the chilled blanched peas in a high power blender along with seasoning and savory, blend to a fine purée.

Bring the stock and cream to the boil and add the agar-agar, stir and boil for two minutes.

Pour the hot stock and cream over the crushed peas, blend for a minute and pass the pea custard through a fine sieve into a jug.

Immediately pour the custard on to the potted pigs' cheeks.

Let the custard set, then place the tray in the fridge to cool completely, about one hour. Do not disturb the custard before it sets as agitation could prevent the custard setting.

For the horseradish crème fraîche

  • 100g crème fraîche
  • 5g freshly finely grated horseradish
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Mix the crème fraîche with the finely grated horseradish and season to taste.

To serve

  • 6 whole pea pods and pea tops
  • Chervil
  • 4 round red radishes
  • Micro cress
  • Shards of dried bread

Remove the pots from the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving to allow to reach room temperature.

Wash the pea pods and slice them in half lengthways. Wash the radishes and slice them into thin slices on a mandolin.

Use a pastry brush to paint a line of the horseradish crème fraîche on to the slate, arrange the pea pods and tops, micro cress and sliced radishes and shards of dried bread. Place the potted cheeks on one end garnished with peas and micro cress.

Serves 4

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7 Comments to “Potted Pigs’ Cheeks with Pea Custard”

  1. Madalene says:

    Hi Alex,

    I agree I bought my savory plant at Aldeburgh Food and Drinks festival four years ago and it’s still going. It dies away during the winter and return during the summer. Use thyme or rosemary instead.
    If you do not have a waterbath braising is best way, remember a low temperature about 140 degrees C for 2 hours will be best.
    Ham hock will be a great substitute.

    Happy cooking,


  2. Alex Pini says:

    Hi Madalene,

    Beautiful dish.

    If you were braising the cheeks without a waterbath what would you put into the braising liquid to ensure a full flavour. (savory is quite hard to source).

    Also, would ham hock be a suitable alternative?

    Kind Regards,

    Alex P
    Alex P

  3. john thompson says:

    one of my big sellers in portugal pig cheeks braised

  4. Alex says:

    Beautiful. This looks fantastic.

  5. frugalcook says:

    Lovely recipe and really stunning photography. Someone should snap you up for a book!

  6. Having just blogged about pigs and the prospects of their foodie delights I’ve suddenly turned vegetarian reading this recipe. It’s something about the cheeks. I know the old adage is you use all the pig but the squeak but….. till pea custard sounds like a brilliant idea. I’m sure I’ll get over the piggy thing by breakfast time when we’ve got some home cured bacon for our sandwiches bought from the new City Market in Wellington.

  7. Nathan says:

    Fantastic use of pig`s cheeks Madalene and great presentation!

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