Salsify carbonara with confit pork cheek, crackling and chestnuts

  • medium
  • 4
  • 1 hour 20 minutes
Not yet rated

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.

First published in 2016




Confit pork

Crispy pigs skin

Carbonara sauce


To serve


  • Blender


Begin by making a curing mix for the pork cheeks. Add all the spices to a dry frying pan and toast over a moderate heat for a few minutes until aromatic. Transfer the spices to a blender and blitz to a powder. Add the salt, sugar, thyme, rosemary and garlic and blitz again until thoroughly combined
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
Preheat the oven to 130°C/gas mark 1/2. When the pork has finished curing, thoroughly rinse away the curing mixture from the cheeks, pat dry and place the cheeks in a large baking dish. In a small pan over a low heat, melt enough duck fat to cover the cheeks completely and pour evenly over the cheeks. Place in the oven and cook for approximately 2 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 place on a tray lined with greaseproof 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, trim any excess fat away from the pig skin and lay out flat on a tray. Sprinkle over a little salt and leave for 20 minutes to draw out some of the moisture. Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7
Rinse the salt from the skin and dry thoroughly with kitchen paper. Place between 2 baking trays to keep flat and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until really crispy. Allow to cool slightly, 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, which should take about 20 minutes. Add the wine, allow to reduce by half, then add the cream and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the cheese and pepper, adjusting the seasoning as needed. If the sauce is too thick, add a splash of milk. Set aside
Heat a small frying pan with a dash of oil and add the cheeks, 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
Meanwhile, prepare the salsify by half-filling a pan with cold water and adding the wine, salt and lemon juice. Peel the salsify then use the peeler to cut them into long ribbons, immediately adding to the pan to prevent discolouration. Place the pan over a high heat, bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes until tender. Drain well
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. Add the salsify to the sauce with the chopped parsley and stir to combine
To serve, divide the salsify and sauce between serving bowls and top with a piece of pork cheek. Scatter over the sliced chestnuts and some of the pork crackling crumb. Season with some extra black pepper and serve immediately

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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