Pig's Cheek and Bacon Ragu

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Pigs cheeks. 

It's the kind of cut of meat you don't buy regularly, not like chicken legs or minced beef. But we should. Firstly, because it's more ethical to use up all of the animal, and secondly because, when cooked right, they're pretty damn tasty. 

This pig cheek came from Farmer's Choice, an online butcher based in the UK, supplying free-range meats as well as fish and game. 

I'd once eaten pig cheek ragu at a restaurant and absolutely loved it. So when I saw this, I wanted to create something that would satisfy my cravings to go back in time and try it again. It's light, and when cooked for a long time, the pig cheek turns really tender and you can pull it apart. I cook mine in the slow cooker, mostly because I can clink on the lid and forget about it until it's time to eat. The recipe is paleo, as well as gluten and dairy-free. If you're AIP, this recipe is fine if you've re-introduced tomatoes. And it's great served alongside some spiralised courgette/zucchini noodles. This is the spiraliser I use. It has different settings so you can have thin veggie noodles or veggie tagliatelle type strips. 

Pig Cheek Ragu
Serves 2-3
350g pig's cheek
4 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped roughly
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
a splash of red wine or port
400g can chopped tomatoes
pinch of dried marjoram
pinch of thyme
pinch of salt, to taste

First, put the pig cheek into the base of a slow cooker that's preheated to high. Replace the lid while you make the ragu sauce. 

To make the sauce, drop the chopped bacon in a largish frying pan and leave it so that it turns slightly golden and the fat renders down. Once the bacon is cooked and starting to turn golden, add the garlic and onion to the pan, stir-frying until the onion is soft and tender. Once the onion is almost cooked, pour in the splash of red wine or port. Allow the alcohol to bubble off for a few seconds and then add the chopped tomatoes, herbs and a pinch of salt. Give it all a stir, simmering for a few more minutes. 

Pour the hot sauce over the pig's cheek in the slow cooker, replace the lid and leave to cook for 4-5 hours. 

Once the cooking time is up, check the pig cheek. It should be well-cooked and pull-apart tender. Shred the meat into the sauce with a couple of forks. Put the lid back on while you make your vegetables or whatever you're having alongside. Serve hot. 

I received a contribution towards the ingredients for this recipe, and the pig cheeks, from Farmer's Choice. I've always found the meat of brilliant quality and totally delicious. Do go visit their website.