A great, if unusual, lunch or light meal. The pigs’ cheeks are braised slowly for extra taste, then shredded and fried to top fresh flatbreads with homemade taramasalata.
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
½ onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp white peppercorns
4 pigs’ cheeks
500ml/18fl oz chicken stock
4 banana shallots, sliced into rings
250ml/9fl oz milk
vegetable oil for deep-frying
plain white flour for dusting
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 green chilli, chopped with seeds
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat the rapeseed oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion, star anise and white peppercorns, cover the pan and leave the vegetables to fry gently and loose water for at least five minutes until softened.
Add the pigs cheeks’ and chicken stock. Increase the heat to high and bring to boil, skimming off any fat that rises to the surface. Turn the heat down to low, cover the pan and braise the cheeks for about 2½ hours until tender. Remove the cheeks from the stock and leave them to cool.
Meanwhile, make the taramasalata. Put the bread in a food processor and pulse to form breadcrumbs. Tip these into a bowl and cover with the milk. Put the cod’s roe and garlic into the processor and blend until smooth. Add the soaked bread and milk and blend again. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil. Add the lemon juice and season. Transfer the taramasalata to a serving bowl, cover and chill until needed.
To make the flat breads, mix the flour and salt together in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the olive oil, and then slowly add the warm water, bringing the paste together to form dough. Knead into a tight ball and leave to rest, covered with cling film, for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the shallots into a bowl, cover with the milk and leave to soak for 10 minutes. When ready to deep-fry the shallot rings, heat enough oil for deep frying in a deep-fat fryer or heavy-based frying pan to 180C/350F (Caution: hot oil can be dangerous. Do not leave unattended).
Drain the shallots, and then dust them in flour, shaking off the excess. Deep-fry the shallot rings for 3-5 minutes until crisp and golden-brown. Drain on kitchen paper and season with salt and pepper while still hot. Leave these to one side until you are ready to serve. They don’t need to be kept warm – they are added to the dish for the texture. Just make sure you don’t cover them because that will cause them to soften.
For the flatbreads, after the dough has rested, lightly flour the work surface and divide the dough into four equal portions. Roll each portion into an oval shape about ½cm/¼in thick. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add as many flat breads as will fit and dry-fry for 2-3 minutes on each side until lightly toasted and crisp. Keep warm until you are ready to serve.
Just before you’re ready to serve, heat the three tablespoons of olive oil in the pan over a high heat and throw in the braised pigs’ cheeks. Use two forks to shred the meat and cook, stirring, for 8-10 minutes until crisp. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the chopped green chilli.
Spread the flat breads with taramasalata, then add the crispy pigs’ cheeks and then the shallot rings. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve.
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