Saturday, September 18, 2010

Carrillada (pig's cheek stew)

Carrillada or pig's cheek is a great cut for stews. It has plenty of flavour and a lovely moist texture too. The term 'pig's cheek' puts a lot of people off, but actually it is really the jaw muscle. I don't see why eating this should be any less appealing than eating a pig's leg or back muscles. Because it has plenty of connective tissue, it needs long cooking but develops a great texture and does not dry out.


The recipe below is deliberately 'rustic', with only a bare minimum of chopping or anything else, and is therefore perfect for children to make. And it's also good because it provides a basic stew recipe which kids can than improvise around, changing the ingredients and flavours as they wish, with only the bare minimum of adult interference.

Ingredients
olive oil
2 onions
3 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
1 kg of carrilada (pig's cheek) - if you can't get it, substitute with any stewing cut
500g of carrots
2 large tomatoes
200 ml of chicken stock (more if not using a pressure cooker)
1 teaspoon of salt
4 bay leaves

Method
  1. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Peel and smash the garlic. If using carrillada, it comes in small 'steaks' and can be cooked whole. Peel the carrots but leave whole. Top and tail the tomatoes and cut into quarters.
  2. Put plenty of olive oil in a pressure cooker or large saucepan. Add the onions to the oil and fry gently. When they are nearly done, add the garlic and continue frying for a minute or so.
  3. Then add the paprika, stir and fry for a few seconds, add the meat, stir to mix, and fry for a few minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients.
  4. If using a pressure cooker, put the lid on, heat until the cooker whistles, turn to minimum and cook for 20 minutes. If using a conventional pan, cover and bring to a boil, turn to minimum and simmer for about 2 hours, check the liquid level occasionally.
  5. Like all stews, this is improved by being left for a day.

Pressure cooker
Like a lot of British people, I used to have a bit of a prejudice against pressure cookers. (Although oddly enough I remember a flatmate of mine at university having one - not sure that he ever used it, however.) In Spain, they are very popular, and are ideally suited to cooking pulses and wet stews.

They also have another great benefit, which I only realised when we started making this, and that is that they are perfect for use by kids. Sammy actually made this stew from scratch - my only intervention was to peel the carrots (every kid likes having his or her own personal kitchen porter), to do a bit of light supervision and to remember to turn the stew off at the end. You can make the whole dish in one pot, and don't need to worry about heat or liquid levels while cooking, or even to monitor it.

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