Over the past decade of living here in The Algarve I've become more and more intrigued with the pronounced mark left by the Moorish influence, and how it has seamlessly combined with the local flavours and ingredients to produce some exotic, full flavoured and vibrant dishes.These tasty chaps from the pig's head need long, slow cooking. They're incredibly flavoursome and meltingly tender when braised or stewed.Here is a Cheeky chappies take on that Moorish style.Carrilada is a favourite tapas recipe in Southern Spain.It is a melt in your mouth, get up and dance,go to, smack yourself in the head for not having eaten this earlier type of food. Yes, it is that good. What is carrillada, you ask? Simply put, it is cheek— beef cheek is carrillada de ternera, pork cheek is carrillada de cerdo, lamb cheek is carrillada de cordero…etc. And despite their differences in taste, all carrilladas are delicious.Here is a delicious recipe for pork cheek (carrillada de cerdo) which I’ve borrowed from the British chef Ben Tish.This traditionally Catalan dish,is made with chocolate and spices,and is reminiscent of Mexican mole. The sauce is thickened with picada, traditionally a blend of toasted nuts, herbs and garlic.
Braised pigs' cheeks with garlic-cumin potatoes
Adapted from an original recipe by Ben Tish
For the pigs' cheeks
1-2 tbsp olive oil, for frying
750g/1lb 10oz pigs' cheeks, preferably Ibérican pork mejillas, trimmed of fat and sinew
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp smoked paprika
200ml/7fl oz Pedro Ximenez sherry
750ml/1¼ pints good-quality beef or dark-chicken stock
25g/1oz bitter chocolate
For the garlic-cumin potatoes
700g/1lb 8oz waxy potatoes, peeled, cut into cubes
1 tbsp olive oil, for frying
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tsp crushed cumin seeds
125g/4½oz softened unsalted butter
For the picada
1 slice crusty white bread, crusts removed, cut into chunks
70g/2½oz blanched Marcona almonds
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
½ tsp grated orange zest
small handful fresh flatleaf parsley
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 260F/130C Fan/Gas 2.
Heat the oil in an ovenproof casserole over a medium heat. Add the pigs' cheeks and fry for 1-2 minutes on all sides, or until browned all over. Remove from the casserole and set aside.
Add the onion, carrots and garlic to the casserole and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until light golden-brown.
Add the cumin, smoked paprika, stir well and continue to cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
Pour in the sherry and bring to the boil, scraping up any burned bits from the bottom of the pan using a wooden spoon. Continue to boil until the volume of sherry has reduced by two-thirds.
Return the pigs' cheeks to the casserole, the pour over the stock and return the mixture to the boil. Transfer the casserole to the oven and cook for 2-2½ hours, or until the pigs' cheeks are tender and the cooking liquid has reduced and thickened to a sauce.
To make the garlic-cumin potatoes, boil the potato cubes in a pan of salted water for 8-10 minutes, or until tender. Drain well, mash using a potato ricer or masher, then set aside to cool.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and cumin and fry until the garlic is pale golden-brown.
Mix together the mashed potatoes, garlic, cumin and the cooking oil in a bowl until well combined. Stir in the butter, then season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Keep warm.
To make the picada, blend all of the picada ingredients to a thick paste in a food processor. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
When the pigs' cheeks are cooked, remove the casserole from the oven and place it on the hob over a medium heat. Stir in the chocolate and the three-quarters of the picada and simmer for 2-3 minutes, or until the chocolate has melted and the sauce has thickened a little more. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
To serve, divide the pigs' cheeks equally among 4 serving bowls. Spoon the potatoes alongside. Garnish each dish with some of the remaining picada.