Rich and tender pork cheek combines perfectly with sweet, delectable scallops in this easily prepared starter. Although there is some preparation involved, the results are well worth the effort and will have your guests begging for the recipe! Order your pork cheeks from your craft butcher, giving a few days' notice.
- 1 tsp rapeseed oil
- 18 large scallops, well trimmed
- sea salt
- cauliflower purée, to serve
- dried cauliflower pieces, to serve
- fresh pea shoots, to garnish
- 3 pork cheeks (75–100g (3–4oz), boned and trimmed
- 75 g (3oz) coarse sea salt
- 6 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 whole star anise
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 750 ml (1 1/4 pints) duck fat
- 2 tblsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tblsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tblsp maple syrup
- creamed white beans, to serve
- spinach purée, to serve
- cauliflower foam, to serve
- 175 g (6oz) dried haricot beans
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 streaky bacon rashers, cooked and finely diced
- 200 ml (7fl oz) cream
- 1 tblsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tblsp snipped fresh chives
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 small cauliflower
- 25 g (1oz) butter
- 100 ml (3 1/2fl oz) milk
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tblsp cauliflower purée
- 300 ml vegetable stock
- 1 tsp soya lecithin granules
- sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 1 tblsp freshly grated parmesan
- Place the pork cheeks on a plate and sprinkle over the salt, thyme, star anise and garlic. Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge overnight to allow the flavours to infuse into the pork meat.
- The next day, preheat the oven to 120°C (250°F/gas mark 1/2).
- Rinse the excess spices off the marinated pork, removing all the salt, and dry thoroughly. To cook the pork, heat the duck fat in a casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid until melted, then carefully immerse the pork cheeks into the fat. Cover with foil and the lid, then place in the oven for about 4 hours, until the pork is meltingly tender and the flesh is just coming apart. Take out of the oven and leave to cool in the fat, then remove and dry with kitchen paper. Cut into 6 even-sized pieces and place on a plate covered with clingfilm until needed.
- To finish cooking the pork cheeks, place the soy sauce, vinegar and maple syrup in a sauté pan. Bring to the boil and reduce to a honey consistency. Add the cold pork cheeks into the maple and balsamic syrup and warm through for 4–5 minutes, until caramelised and nicely sticky, turning regularly.
- To cook the scallops, heat the rapeseed oil in a non-stick frying pan. Season the scallops with some salt, then sear the scallops for about 1 minute on each side, until golden brown and nicely caramelised. They should still be slightly undercooked in the middle. You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan.
- To serve, spoon a little of the cauliflower purée onto warmed plates, then using a spoon, swipe the purée. Add the scallops and top with a little more of the cauliflower purée, then garnish with the dried cauliflower pieces and pea shoots. Add the creamed white beans to each plate and place the pork cheek on top, then add a long swipe of the spinach purée alongside. Spoon the cauliflower foam alongside.
- Soak the haricot beans overnight in a large bowl of cold water. Drain and place in a very large pan and cover with fresh water and add the thyme. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 10 minutes, then cover and simmer for 45–50 minutes, until the beans are just cooked and tender but still holding their shape. Refresh under cold running water and store in the fridge until needed.
- Preheat the grill and cook the bacon until golden and sizzling on both sides. Drain on kitchen paper, then finely chop.
- Place the cream in a pan and bring to the boil, then add the cooked bacon, parsley, chives and cooked haricot beans – you should have about 450g (1lb) in total. Return to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to warm through. Season to taste and use as required.
- To cook ahead, the cooked beans can be left to cool and kept chilled in a non-metallic bowl covered with clingfilm for up to 2 days in the fridge. Put into a pan and reheat gently to serve.
- Using half a small cauliflower, cut off the florets, then using a Japanese mandolin, cut into wafer-thin slices.
- Put the slices in a food dehydrator (see page 271 for more details) set at 65°C (150°F) for 3–4 hours, until crisp and dry. Remove and use as required.
- Trim the cauliflower into small florets, discarding the leaves and tough stalk. Melt the butter in a pan. Add the florets and cook for 3 minutes, until they’re just beginning to soften, stirring regularly. Add the milk and cover and simmer for another 8 minutes, until the cauliflower is completely soft and the milk mixture is slightly reduced.
- Place the cauliflower mixture in a Thermomix or blender and whizz to a smooth purée. Pass through a sieve into a bowl. Season to taste and either leave to cool completely and cover with clingfilm in the fridge until needed, or if using immediately, keep warm.
- To cook ahead, this will keep for up to 3 days in a bowl covered with clingfilm in the fridge. Reheat gently in a pan to serve. It can also be frozen quite successfully.
- Blitz with a hand blender and pass through a fine sieve into a clean pan. Keep warm.
- Add the soya lecithin granules to the pan, whisking until smooth. Season to taste and bring to the boil, then blitz with a hand blender to create a foam by bringing the head of the blender from the very bottom of the pan to the top of the liquid. Use immediately.
The pork cheeks can be braised 24 hours in advance and caramelised just before serving. All the cauliflower elements can be made 24 hours in advance and kept in the fridge until needed. The scallops can be opened and placed on damp kitchen roll in the fridge for up to 3 or 4 days or they can be frozen. For a wine match, balance the rich hint of sweetness with a crisp, citrusy Albariño from Rias Baixas in north-west Spain. Another good choice is a ripe Antão Vaz from Portugal.
More by Neven Maguire:
- Caramelised Pork Belly, Neven Maguire, Today show
- Moroccan Lamb Tagine: Alternative Easter dinner
- Fragrant Pork, Thai Red Curry: Neven Maguire