A whole pig cheek feels like pure indulgence — beautiful soft flesh, a great layer of fat, and perfectly crisp crackling, it really is ticking a lot of boxes. If you know, you know.
This recipe is so rustic, in an Andalucian country sort of way, and I absolutely love it. It holds no punches and leaves nowhere to hide — unctuous pig cheek and soft, rich chickpeas in a big pot. You’re probably going to be tempted to cook or serve some greens or vegetables with it, but this isn’t what they would do there — instead, it would probably just come with lots of bread. As well as being super delicious, it is also super easy.
Slow roasted pig cheek, chickpeas, oloroso & sweet onions
- Take the cheek out of the fridge and remove from its packaging. Season all over liberally with salt. Set aside for 45 minutes to allow the salt to permeate the cheek.
- Drain the chickpeas and place in a pan, cover with water, and place on the stove on a high heat. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
- Find a large pan that has a lid that fits well. In go 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, then begin to cook out the onions, along with the bay leaves and a pinch of salt. Do this on a medium heat, with a lid on, and stir fairly regularly. You want the onions to really break down and release their sweetness. However, you don’t want them to take on any colour, so take your time with it. Patience will be rewarded. Cook them for roughly an hour.
- Preheat your oven to 120°C.
- Drain the chickpeas and tip them into the onions. Add the Oloroso, bring up the boil, and add enough chicken stock to cover the chickpeas. Allow this to come up to the boil, and then carefully place the cheek in the dish. Put the lid on and then place in the oven for 2 ½ hours.
- After 2 ½ hours, remove the lid from the pot and return to the oven for a further 2 ½ hours. If the chickpeas have soaked up all the liquid and it looks a little dry, add a splash more chicken stock.
- After the next 2 ½ hours, remove the pan from the oven and check that the pork is cooked. Insert a knife into the cheek, not through the skin but to the side. If the knife inserts easily, then the cheek is cooked.
- Turn the oven up to 200°C. Check again the liquid levels, if you think it needs another splash of chicken stock, then do so. Return the pan to the oven and cook for 12-15 minutes. We are basically trying to crisp up the skin on the cheek.
- Remove the pan from the oven and set aside to rest for at least half an hour.
- Remove the cheek carefully from the pan, and then add 1 teaspoon of sherry vinegar to the chickpeas. Stir this in and then check the seasoning, adjusting if necessary.
- You’re ready to serve. Crusty bread and a glass of sherry at the ready!