Pedro Ximénez Iberico pork cheek
If you think of Pedro Ximenez as an ultra sweet sherry, yes, of course it is but you can also use it to make spectacular savoury recipes like this dish of pork cheek from Bar 44's Tapas y Copas by Owen and Tom Morgan. I'm lucky enough to have them as my local tapas bar and absolutely adore their food. Now, thanks to the book you can try it for yourself.
"One of our favourite dishes, we come back to this time and time again. It’s reminiscent of the oxtail, ox cheek and pig cheek dishes we love in Andalusia, and is like comfort in a bowl. You could use any seasonal vegetables, or even some lovely white beans. Just change the accompaniments to suit your mood and the time of year. We have also used this dish in a larger format as a sharing option for a great Sunday roast with lots of trimmings.
Pedro Ximénez Ibérico pork cheek, celeriac, rainbow chard
Serves 4–6 as a tapa
Light olive oil, for frying
6 bellota-grade Ibérico pork cheeks, trimmed (or use free-range British pork cheeks)
3 carrots, diced
2 large Spanish onions, diced
1 leek, diced
150ml red wine (a young rioja would be perfect)
200ml Pedro Ximénez sherry
2 tbsp ñora pepper paste (if unavailable, use tomato purée)
1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs of thyme
500ml good chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the celeriac purée
1kg celeriac, peeled and diced into 2.5cm cubes
About 750ml milk
For the rainbow chard
1 bunch of rainbow chard (8 leaves)
Extra virgin olive oil, for frying
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 160ºC/140ºC Fan/Gas mark 3.
Place a generous glug of light olive oil in a wide flameproof pan over a high heat. Season the pork cheeks well with salt and pepper, then sear in the pan until gnarly and caramelised on both sides. This will take about 10 minutes. Do not cut corners here – you will be rewarded with deeper flavour later on. Set aside on a plate.
Add the carrots, onions and leek to the oily pan and sauté over a medium heat until softened and lightly golden brown (about 10 minutes). Set the vegetables aside with the cheeks.
Return the pan to a high heat, add the red wine and sherry, and scrape up all the bits stuck to the bottom while reducing the liquid by half.
Lower the heat to medium, return the cheeks and vegetables to the pan, then add the ñora paste, garlic, bay leaf and thyme and stir well.
Pour in the chicken stock and bring to the boil, then cover the pan with baking parchment and a lid and place in the oven for 3–4 hours, until the meat is ultra-tender and you can easily push your thumb through it. Set aside to cool, then remove the pork cheeks.
Strain the cooking liquid through a fine sieve into a large saucepan and reduce to a sauce consistency. It should be deep, glossy and coat the back of a spoon. Add the cheeks and keep warm] until ready to serve.
Meanwhile, place the celeriac in a saucepan, add enough milk to cover it, then add the butter and some seasoning. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 10–15 minutes, until the celeriac is tender. Strain, reserving the cooking liquor.
Place the celeriac in a blender with half the liquor and blitz to a purée; this will take about 3 minutes. Add more liquid if it seems too thick. Season to taste and keep warm until needed.
Slice the chard stems diagonally into 3–4cm pieces, keeping the leaves whole.
Place a wok or large frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add some extra virgin olive oil and the garlic and cook until the garlic is golden brown and has infused the oil with all its flavour. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and reserve.
Add the chard stems to the wok and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the chard leaves and stir-fry for another 1–2 minutes, until wilted but still retaining some natural colour and bite. Season, return the golden garlic to the pan and toss well.
Spoon some of the celeriac purée onto serving plates, top with the cheeks, then place the chard alongside.
What to drink: Even though the dish contains PX that would be too sweet for it but I'd go for a full-bodied red like a Jumilla or a garnacha.
Extracted from Bar 44 Tapas y Copas by Owen and Tom Morgan, published by Seren Books at £25. Photography © Matt Inwood.
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