I’m going to start this food piece with a personal confession.
I’m not a very romantic person. In truth I feel very little. It’s very rare that I shed a tear, or express high or low emotions – I’m very mundane with my feelings, but I do feel. I know, for instance that I love my girlfriend and she is by far and away the best thing to ever happen to me.
The unfortunate truth is that I equate the thoughtful things I do for us as a couple as romantic, or at least good boyfriend point actions which I confuse as romance. Going to a parcel locker and picking up your girlfriend’s sister’s birthday present after work as well as buying her another present earlier in the day then preparing them into a gift bag all nicely nice isn’t romantic. It’s helpful for sure, and thoughtful, but not romantic.
So it’s fair to say I had lost my way with the romance side of our relationship. I knew I had to act. So, a bunch of flowers to work with an invite to a date night was a good place to start!
I had booked a table at her favourite restaurant Aqua (I’m not sure if it is her favourite restaurant in Milton Keynes, or just her favourite restaurant). Although a chain, the food is of an excellent standard and priced sensibly for the experience offered.
We both had fish based starters. Both loved them.
But I was waiting for the main course, Pork Cheeks. I had been to Aqua once before and in an effort to not dive headfirst towards the red meat option I had a smoked haddock risotto. The risotto was nice, but over half the table had ordered the pig cheeks and when I tried a little I knew I had made the wrong choice on mains.
8 Hour braised pork cheeks with creamy mash potato, rich chianti jus & black pudding fritter
That’s what I was looking forward to. And I wasn’t disappointed with the dish put before more. Melt in the mouth tender pork cheeks, rich, opulent chianti jus, deliciously creamy mash and the black pudding fitter. This was all that I was hoping for and more. I would consider this as a ‘last meal’ option if my life ever took such a turn!
My partner then posed the challenge: “I wonder if we could recreate this meal”. Well, first off the black pudding fritter was out, it was more about the pork cheeks.
The first job was to source the cheeks. Although available in supermarkets, they don’t usually stock many. Waitrose had sold out, and we got hold of the last at Tesco. It is probably best to go to your local butchers and ask for them. They’re dirt cheap as a cut of meat and after the experience was left wondering why we don’t eat more cuts like this.
A perfect slow cooker meal approach was taken to cook this dish. Each cheek was sealed in a frying pan before being placed on top a bed of carrot and onion.
Once all the cheeks had been sealed and placed in the slow cooker a mixture of beef stock and half a bottle of red wine was poured over top and the slow cooker was set for an 8-hour cook on low.
A day of activities and 8 hours later we were ready to serve. Just before serving some beef gravy granules were used to thicken the sauce. To plate, the cheeks would be accompanied by mash potato, roasted cauliflower and boiled cabbage.
I am happy to report the pig cheeks were phenomenal. I was grateful I said no to messing about with the ingredients going into the slow cooker to allow the cheeks to sing for themselves. The pig cheeks just fell apart in a rich gravy alongside some delicious veg.
What a great Sunday dinner!
It was so good as we were eating we were thinking of what other meat we could cook in such a way to be fabulously tender as the pig cheeks weren’t massive. A small joint of beef? Lamb neck fillets? Ox cheeks?
I think I am going to have to find out and report back!