Thomasina Miers' slow-cooked pork cheeks with star anise, orange and rosemary

Cheaper cuts of meat are often the ones that give the most melt-in-the-mouth results

Thomasina Miers’ slow-cooked pork cheeks with star anise, orange and rosemary
Thomasina Miers’ slow-cooked pork cheeks with star anise, orange and rosemary. Photograph: Yuki Sugiura/The Guardian. Food stylist: Aya Nishimura. Prop stylist: Louie Waller. Food assistant: SongSoo Kim.

According to a report in the Guardian last year, the number of intensive farms in the UK increased by 7% from 2017 to February 2020 (and as much as 21% in Wales). That’s a chilling thought when we know how heavy their impact is on biodiversity loss, environmental destruction and emissions. Which brings me on to cheeks. Yes, we need to eat less meat overall, but opting for cheaper cuts, particularly ones that create such melt-in-the-mouth results, does mean that buying free-range or organic is more of an option.

Slow-cooked pork cheeks with star anise, orange and rosemary

This delightfully aromatic braise gives a nod to the east with its star anise, but the heady mix of sherry, orange, garlic and rosemary shows it still wants to dance the flamenco.

Prep 30 min
Cook 3 hr
Serves 4

12 pork cheeks
Salt and black pepper
6 tbsp organic rapeseed oil
1 onion,
peeled and chopped
1 large leek, trimmed and sliced
2 heads fennel, tough outer layer discarded, the rest cut into eighths through the stem
2 star anise
2 sprigs
rosemary
5 garlic cloves,
bashed and peeled
Rice flour or chickpea flour
, for dusting
120ml
oloroso sherry
Peel of 1 orange
Chilli (optional)
500ml chicken stock

Remove the pork cheeks from the fridge, cut away any excess fat with a sharp pair of scissors and season very generously all over, then set aside to come up to room temperature.

In the meantime, warm half the oil in a heavy-based casserole set over a medium-high heat and add the onion, leek, fennel, star anise and rosemary. Season well, turn the heat down to medium and cook for five minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another five to eight minutes, until the vegetables are soft and sweet. Scoop them out into a bowl and set aside.

Put the rest of the oil in the pan and turn up the heat to high. Dust the cheeks in enough flour to coat, and brown half of them in the hot pan until golden on both sides. Transfer to the bowl with the vegetables and repeat with the remaining cheeks, adding more oil if you need to. When all the cheeks are out of the hot pan, add the orange peel and chilli (if using), and pour in the sherry to deglaze the pan. Add the stock, return the cheeks and the vegetables to the pan, and bring to simmering point on a medium heat.

Transfer the pan to an oven heated to 150C (130C fan)/300F/gas 2 and cook for two to three hours, until the cheeks are so tender that they can be cut with a spoon. Taste to check for seasoning, then serve with mashed potato, soy sauce and braised greens.

And for the rest of the week …

With enough buttery mash, there will be leftovers here. Shred the meat over a bowl of noodles, with or without a brothand with lots of shredded veg, to perk up any February evening.