Mark Hix recipe: Pork cheeks with barley and fennel risotto

Serves 4
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Good butchers and decent supermarkets now quite often sell pork cheeks. They're a great cut of pure meat and they have natural marbling, so they stay moist during slow cooking.

500-600g pork cheeks, cut into 4-5cm chunks or left whole if small
60g butter
1tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, peeled, halved and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g flour, plus some for dusting
500ml dry cider or white wine
1ltr chicken stock
½ bulb of fennel simmered gently until tender in 1ltr of chicken stock (reserve the chicken stock)
½tbsp rapeseed or vegetable oil

For the risotto

½ bulb of fennel, finely diced
80g butter
60g pearl barley, soaked in cold water for 1 hour
The chicken stock from the cooked fennel

Season and lightly flour the pork cheeks. Heat a heavy frying pan with one tablespoon of vegetable oil and fry the cheeks on a high heat for a few minutes, browning them on all sides, then drain on some kitchen paper.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and gently cook the onion for 2-3 minutes until soft; add the flour and cook on a low heat for a minute, then gradually add the cider or wine, and the stock. Bring to the boil, add the pork cheeks, season and simmer gently for about 1-1½ hours, or until the cheeks are tender.

The sauce should have reduced; if not, remove the cheeks and simmer the sauce until thick, then return the cheeks to it.

While the meat is cooking, melt a knob of the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the diced fennel for a couple of minutes without colouring. Stir in the pearl barley, then gradually add the stock the fennel was cooked in, stirring every so often, for about 20 minutes, or until the barley is cooked; re-season, then remove from the heat and stir in the rest of the butter.

While the risotto cooks, cut the cooked fennel bulb into four wedges, heat the rapeseed oil in a heavy pan and fry the fennel on both sides until lightly coloured.

To serve, reheat the risotto, adding a little more stock if necessary, spoon on to warmed serving plates, spreading it around. Spoon the cheeks and sauce into the centre with the wedges of fennel.