1 hour 20 minutes, plus 24 hours curing and 6 hours cooking the cheeks
A low-carb alternative to a traditional pasta carbonara, Geoffrey Smeddle replaces the pasta with ribbons of the root vegetable salsify and tops the dish with a pressed confit pork cheek and some crunchy pork crackling. Curing and cooking the confit pork does take time, but all of the other elements can also be prepared ahead so it’s easy to assemble on the day of serving. Any leftover curing mixture can be kept in an airtight container and used to add a kick to soups, stews and marinades.
Geoffrey Smeddle, proprietor and chef of The Peat Inn in Fife, started his career working for Herbert Berger at The Café Royal and for Christopher Galvin in London. He then sealed his reputation as one of Scotland’s top chefs by opening Terence Conran's Etain, in Glasgow.
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First make a curing mix for the pork cheeks. Add all of the spices to a dry frying pan and toast over a moderate heat for a few minutes until aromatic
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp juniper berries
1 cardamom pod
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
Transfer the spices to a blender and blitz to a powder. Add the salt, sugar, thyme, rosemary and garlic and blitz again to combine
250g of sea salt flakes
2 tsp sugar
3 sprigs of fresh thyme, cut into 1cm lengths
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, cut into 1cm lengths
2 garlic cloves, peeled
Sprinkle a thin, even layer of the curing mixture over a tray and lay the pork cheeks on top, making sure they are not touching each other. Sprinkle over more of the curing mixture, then cover the tray with cling film and leave to cure in the fridge for 24 hours
2 pork cheeks, skin removed
After 24 hours, rinse the curing mixture from the cheeks and pat dry. Place in a large oven dish
Preheat the oven to 160°C/gas mark 3
Place a small pan over a low heat and gently melt enough duck fat to just cover the cheeks in the dish. Pour this evenly over the cheeks, then cook in the oven for 6 hours until soft and tender. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 30 minutes in the fat
Lift the cheeks out of the fat and lay on a piece of baking paper. Cover with a second piece of paper then top with a flat tray weighed down with something heavy to press the cheeks flat as they cool. Once completely cold, remove the weights and paper and cut into 4 squares. Chill until ready to serve
Meanwhile, cook the pork skin for a crunchy crackling topping. Lay the skin out flat and sprinkle over a little salt. Leave for 20 minutes to draw out some of the moisture
1 pig skin, about 20cm square
Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7
Rinse the salt from the skin and dry thoroughly with kitchen towel or a clean tea towel. Place between 2 baking trays to keep flat and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until really crispy
Allow to cool slightly then transfer to a blender and blitz to coarse crumbs. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve
To make the carbonara sauce, add the diced pancetta to a large pan and place over a gentle heat to allow the fat to render down slowly – this should take about 20 minutes. Add the wine and allow to reduce by half, then add the cream and bring to a simmer
300g of pancetta, diced
150ml of white wine
900ml of cream
Whisk in the cheese and pepper, adjusting the seasoning as needed. If the sauce is too thick, add a little milk as needed. Allow the sauce to cool and reserve until needed
150g of grated Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper, 20 twists
milk, as needed
Prepare the salsify by half filling a pan with cold water then adding the wine, salt and lemon juice. Use a peeler to cut the salsify into ribbons and add immediately to the pan to stop them discolouring. Place the pan over a high heat and bring to the boil
4 batons of salsify, rinsed in cold water and peeled
150ml of white wine
1 lemon, juiced
1 pinch of salt
Simmer the salsify for a couple of minutes until tender then drain and spread out on a tray to cool down. Once cold, reserve in the fridge until ready to cook
Heat a small frying pan with a dash of oil and place the cheek squares in, fat-side down with a pan or weighted tray on top to keep them flat. Cook for 7–8 minutes, then turn over – placing the weight back on top – and cook until golden
vegetable oil, for frying
Meanwhile, reheat the carbonara sauce gently in a large pan. If using the egg yolk, whisk this in now, being careful not to have the heat too high as it will scramble. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and quickly blanch the salsify, then drain and add to the sauce, stirring in with the chopped parsley
1 egg yolk, optional
2 tsp chopped parsley
To serve, divide the salsify and sauce between serving bowls and top each with a square of pork cheek. Scatter over the shaved chestnuts and some of the pork crackling crumb, season with black pepper and serve immediately
8 vacuum packed cooked chestnuts, finely sliced or shaved
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