Once-A-Month Cooking Family Favorites by Mary Beth Lagerborg

  • Full Title : Once-A-Month Cooking Family Favorites: More Great Recipes That Save You Time and Money from the Inventors of the Ultimate Do-Ahead Dinnertime Method
  • Autor: Mary Beth Lagerborg
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin; 8.2.2009 edition
  • Publication Date: September 1, 2009
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312534043
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312534042
  • Download File Format: epub


Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg are back with a brand new book that features their Once-A-Month Cooking ™ technique guaranteed to save time and money. Filled with all-new cycles – two one-month cycles, two two-week cycles, and three specialty cycles: gourmet, summer, and gluten-free – their trademark method remains the same: You shop for an entire cycle all at once, buying in bulk and saving money. You do all the food prep for the cycle the next day, freezing and refrigerating what needs to be kept cold, stocking the pantry when appropriate. Then, as the family assembles for mealtime, you do some quick finishing and it’s ready – fast and delicious! Once-a-Month Cooking™ Family Favorites has something for every kind of eater and includes such soon-to-be favorites as:

-Adobe Chicken
-Baked Mediterranean Cod
-Chicken Wild Rice Soup
-County-Style Ribs
-Texas-Style Lasagna

With the perfect plan in hand and bulk shopping at economically-friendly prices, the Once-A-Month Cooking ™ technique is a surefire way to get a delicious dinner on the table fast so that you can spend more time with your family!


About the Author

MIMI WILSON and MARY BETH LAGERBORG are authors and inventors of the Once-a-Month Cooking (TM) system. Both live in Colorado and have written other books.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


If this is the first time you’ve joined us, welcome to a new life, where you’ll have meals on hand without the every-evening stress of what to fix. You’re going to save money on your grocery bills and save time in the kitchen, so that you and your family can consistently enjoy together time over delicious, home-cooked meals, and perhaps share meals with others. If this is a reunion with old friends who have enjoyed Once-A-Month Cooking, welcome back. You’re in for more wonderful recipes and ways to spend meaningful time around the family dinner table.

As you launch into megacooking, we’re cheering for you! And here’s our promise: we’ll do all we can to help you not only realize your goals, but have a positive experience in the process. Whether you decide to cook a month’s dinner entrées at once, or two weeks’ dinner entrées, we’ll expedite your shopping and cooking. And we’ll even provide table-talk conversation starters to help you make the very most of that time when you’re gathered around the table.

What to Expect

For those of you who are new to the method, Once-A-Month Cooking is a different way to cook. You don’t have to be well organized or a good cook to successfully accomplish it. But you do need to expect and plan to

• Take a longer-than-usual shopping trip, preferably the day or night before you cook.

• Spend the bulk of your month’s food expense on this shopping trip (saving money over the course of the month).

• Cook with a partner for maximum efficiency and more fun.

• Cook half a day for a two-week cycle and a full day for a one-month cycle.

• Love the freedom and possibilities this will bring to mealtimes.

• Enjoy family-building times around the table.

• Take the stress out of having company for dinner.

A Look at the Recipes

The Recipesincluded in Once-A-Month Cooking Family Favorites have been selected for their taste, variety, ease of preparation, freezeability, and appeal to children as well as adults. Four of the menu cycles are classic, to use any time of year: two one-month cycles and two two-week cycles. Three additional two-week cycles are more specialized and add variety. The Summer Two-Week Cycleis for when livin’ is easy, grillin’ is big, and picnics are possible. The Gourmet Two-Week Cycleis more up-scale fare, on average, than the classic cycle entrées. And the Gluten-Free Two-Week Cycleprovides tasty alternatives for the person with gluten intolerance. We think you’ll find that the recipes in the Gluten-Free Cycle are every bit as tasty as the recipes in the others, and are perfect for the whole family where one or more members must eat gluten-free. As always, the person on a special diet should carefully check ingredient labels.

How to Get Started

If you have previously used Once-A-Month Cooking, you will find the same streamlined method with entirely new recipes. If you are new to bulk cooking, you’ll want to first select a cycle to prepare and read through the lists and charts that are your tools:

The new Menu Chartis your best Once-A-Month Cooking buddy. You will want to download and print a copy at www .once-a-monthcooking .com and keep it on the refrigerator, or taped inside a cupboard door. The more you usethe Menu Chart, the happier you will be because it will help you

• Incorporate into weekly shopping trips any fresh produce required.

• Select an entrée from your freezer to fit the number of people you’ll serve on a given night.

• Cycle through a variety of meats, poultry, and fish.

• Select an entrée for the day that will match your available time for final preparation.

• Write in ideas for what you will serve with each entrée. Following through with this important step will help you creatively use fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables and keep track of items that you will need to purchase on a weekly grocery-shopping trip.

• Check off dishes you have served so you know what you still have to choose from—and when you need to plan your next Once-A-Month Cooking day.

The beauty of the big grocery trip is that you can avoid the need for many stops for “just a few” items the rest of the month. Those impulse trips blow the food bud get. But we know that you really, really don’t want to get full swing into your cooking day and find you’re missing a key ingredient, so we’ll help you form a complete shopping list. If possible, plan to shop the day or evening before you cook; you won’t have the time or energy to do both on cooking day.

The first step toward this is to check the items that you already have on hand. The Pantry Listis our guess at items you already have. Check and see, and if you’re missing some, add them to your shopping list. We give the quantities you’ll need so you can be sure that you have enough of each ingredient.

Your Shopping List by Categorieshelps you whip through the grocery store without a lot of doubling back. Supermarkets predictably display the necessities—meat, dairy, bakery, and produce—along the walls of the store. That means you have to travel aisles of impulse items to get to them! We hope to save you steps and detours.

One caution: If you are a super-diligent shopper who likes to buy meats and poultry on sale, remember that it is not wise to thaw meat or poultry, create an entrée, and refreeze it unless the meat or poultry is cooked before it’s refrozen. When a recipe calls for precooked chicken, we often recommend purchasing roasted chicken and deboning it. If you do this, keep in mind for your shopping plan that often supermarkets don’t make roasted chickens available until the afternoon.

An asterisk (*) after an item in the shopping list indicates that the item will not be used until the day the entrée is served. When the item is fresh produce, such as a tomato, you may want to delay purchasing it until close to when you’ll serve the dish. These items are all listed on the handy Menu Chart so you won’t forget to purchase them before they’re needed. Incorporate these into a weekly grocery shopping list so that you can continue to minimize trips to the store.

Truly you can navigate through a Once-A-Month Cooking day with just a basic knowledge of cooking skills. If you are an experienced cook, you’ll sail along more quickly. Using the Assembly Order, you will prepare your entrées in the order listed, beginning with your chopping, slicing, and grating tasks. Don’t be discouraged with the time this step takes. Once it’s completed, the dishes will come together quickly.

Keep the vegetables, cheese, etc. that you process in Ziploc bags or containers on the counter, refrigerating them if they will be sitting out more than an hour or two. Refrigerate all meat, poultry, and fish that you process (slicing, cubing, etc.) until it will be incorporated into a dish.

Depending upon the size of your family, a two-week cycle with some entrées divided into multiple containers could last for a month.

A Few Days Before Cooking

Make room for the bounty by cleaning out your refrigerator and freezer. You won’t need a separate chest freezer, even for a month cycle, if you’ve cleaned out your freezer before you cook. It’s time to throw out those hard knots of mystery food. Purge items from the refrigerator that have passed their expiration dates, and clear space for food you’ll need to refrigerate between your grocery shopping trip and completion of your cooking day.

On the Night Before Cooking

At every turn in the pro cess of Once-A-Month Cooking, you’ll find that following through with the suggested preparation saves you time and inconvenience. The night before you cook, spend a few minutes preparing your kitchen. Remove from the countertops all appliances, canisters, and décor items that you won’t use on your cooking day. Set out all items from the Pantry List on a counter close to the stove. Now add to these the ingredients from your Shopping List that don’t need refrigeration. Take a few moments to label freezer containers (see bottom of each recipe). Set them out on a table adjacent to the kitchen where you can sit a few minutes while you prepare entrées for the freezer.

Equipment You’ll Need

Finally, get out the basic equipment you’ll need for your big cooking day. Depending upon the cycle you choose, they will probably include the following:


Crock Pot—Each menu cycle includes at least one recipe to be completed in a slow cooker on serving day. If you don’t have one, use a large, covered pot in a slow oven (300 to 325°F.).

Food processor—Banish onion tears by chopping onions, a few wedges at a time, “pulsing” with the processor

Mixer or blender—for combining ingredients


Baking sheet—for baking; for transporting to the freezer

Large pot with lid—for boiling soups, stews, pastas

Pizza pan—for baking and freezing

Roasting pan—for cooking meats

Saucepans—medium and small with lids

Skillets—large, medium, and small


Freezer containers—Ziploc bags and containers as described on the Pantry List

Mixing bowls—small, medium, and large; for combining ingredients


Apron—to save your clothes

Clean sponges, dishcloths, and kitchen towels—for wiping and cleaning up

Colander—for draining pasta and spinach

Coolers and ice—for dividing food, if you’re cooking with a friend

Cutting boards—One for nuts, fruits, and vegetables, and another for meats and poultry. Or carefully wash your cutting board before moving from one food item to another (always leaving poultry last)

Fresh breeze—whew! Lots of aromas

Indelible marker—…



chicken gravy, cake mix recipes, best barbecue in houston, vegetarian soup recipes, iced coffee, oriental cuisine, chicken and rice, napoleon dessert, cake ideas, 5 day diet, south african wine, cake baking recipes, candy and chocolate, ice cream cups, brunch recipes, assam black tea, healthy diet recipes, japanese dinner, on food and cooking, traditional italian food,
gestions is vegetables, grains and beans. The results are sustaining, yet very few start with ‘peel and chop an onion’. There is no marinating, proving or pastry-making either. Just great, fast food for every day. The recipes illuminate the seasonal, the cheap and the quick, the subjects at the very heart of modern everyday eating. Think of them as achievable, contemporary home cooking, straightforward and without a list of ingredients as long as your arm.

These recipes are not written in stone. Each and every idea welcomes additions, omissions and substitutions. They are to be inter­preted as you wish. I bring you suggestions, not rules.

I think of good eating as something to enrich our daily lives, be it a dish of slow-roast ribs with creamed cauliflower or a bowl of saffron-hued dal. Simple cooking that results in something unfussy, unshowy, understated. Something to bring pleasure to our own lives and to those of others.

Nigel Slater, London

September 2015


Twitter: @nigelslater

Instagram: @thenigelslater



New Year’s Day

The kitchen is never silent. Even now, at 5 a.m. and still dark, there is the sound of muffled footsteps on the paving stones outside, of drunken revellers weaving their way home. At the back of the house, the constant drip of water, as regular as a ticking clock on a mantelpiece, falling into the paved courtyard outside the kitchen window. And then it starts, a favourite sound – like that of a crackling wood fire or snowfall in a forest – the patter of steady rain.

The year starts gently in this kitchen, just as it always has, with baking and a pan of soup on the stove. The kitchen table is unusually tidy. A pot of mistletoe. A single candle burning in a glass jar that once held goose fat. A tiny cup of coffee. Toast crumbs.

Instead of a loaf, I decide to make a pile of crispbread, thin and freckled with flour. I have never been particularly happy with my crispbread recipe. A little hard. Too heavy. Too sweet. Rather than the ritual baking of a loaf, I will celebrate the first day of the New Year with the rustle of a new and better crispbread.

Late last year, in Gothenburg, I found sheets of bread finer than vellum that shattered over the table as you snapped them. Sheets of crispbread speckled with blue poppy seeds and black nigella, rough with flax or linseed or gently puckered with dots and ridges, like Braille on a medicine bottle. Bread so fragile it shattered like sheets of ice.

You can make flatbreads without yeast, but I like the notion of yeast rising, of new life in the kitchen on the first day of the New Year. Eccentric, daft even, but to me it just feels right.

Poppy seed crispbread

rye flour – 100g

plain spelt flour – 100g

oat bran – 50g

easy bake dried yeast – 7g (a heaped teaspoon)

sea salt – half a teaspoon

honey – 3 teaspoons

warm water – 150ml

poppy seeds

Put the flours and bran into the bowl of a food mixer, tip in the yeast and salt, then turn once or twice to stir evenly through the flour. Dissolve the honey in the warm water, then pour most of it into the flour, the paddle turning slowly. The dough needs to be soft but not sticky, so you may not need all the liquid. Leave the mixer going for a good three or four minutes, till the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. Turn off the machine, remove the bowl, and leave the dough in a warm place, covered with a cloth, for about half an hour. Set the oven at 200°C/Gas 6.

Lightly flour the work surface – I like to use a large wooden board – tip the dough on to it, then tear off pieces the size of a golf ball. Roll each piece out to roughly the size of a side plate and the thickness of a ten pence piece, laying each one on a baking sheet. With two baking sheets on the go I can bake eight at a time. Sprinkle lightly with poppy seeds, pressing them down into the surface with your hand. Bake for twelve minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack and leave for several minutes to crisp even further. They will keep in good condition in a tin for a few days. Makes 12.

Goose fat and flat-roasties

January 2

There is a chicken in the fridge, small, plump and heavy for its size. I like to roast meat in its own juices, but today I spread the bird, generously, with goose fat. It seems wrong to mix one bird’s fat with another, but in truth, no less appropriate than the cow’s butter, bacon or olive oil I could have chosen. Duck or goose fat, snow-white and left over from Christmas, brings much savour to a roast chicken and to the potatoes that will accompany it.

I keep some sort of fat in the fridge, a block of butter, tightly wrapped; a jar of Ibérico lard, the sort that comes in a jar from a Spanish food shop, for the times I don’t want to use olive oil.

The roast potatoes I like best are those with a little more crust than usual. The ones left in the roasting tin, whose edges, crisped to the point of shattering, are almost translucent. The potatoes you have returned to the oven while the roast rests, the ones that are blessed with a second chance to crisp up in a higher heat.

The best potato is the one you have taken the trouble to peel and parboil before you tip it, soft and slightly bruised around the edges, into the hot fat in the roasting tin. The fat that is already mixed with the juices from the roast, the seasoning and the occasional bay leaf. Dropped into the roasting tin, the potato already soft and partly cooked, its edges a little rough and floury and the fat hot and well seasoned, the roast potato couldn’t have a better start.

Today, I let the potatoes, Maris Pipers, parboil for too long. They collapse into the water. As I drain them, they resemble a half-hearted mash, the odd lump poking up through its almost puréed friends. There is no question of starting again. Not enough time.

Rather than hurl them into the bin, I persevere, spooning the lumpy half-mash into the sizzling fat and butter around the roasting chicken. I scatter thyme leaves amongst the potatoes. A couple of pinches of salt. A screw or two of the peppermill.

Twenty-five minutes later, in an oven at 180°C/Gas 4, the potatoes have crisped to perfection. More golden crust than fluffy interior, everything I want a roast potato to be.

Goose fat chicken, garlic roast potatoes

For the chicken:

a plump chicken

goose fat or butter – 75g

For the potatoes:

floury, white-fleshed potatoes – 650g

thyme – a few sprigs

garlic – 3 cloves

Set the oven at 200°C/Gas 6. Place the chicken in a roasting tin, smear it all over generously with goose fat, season with salt and black pepper, then roast for ten minutes before turning the heat down to 180°C/Gas 4 (the bird will need about an hour in the oven). From time to time, baste the bird with the fat and juices.

Peel the potatoes, then cut them into large chunks and cook them in boiling, generously salted water for about twenty to twenty-five minutes, maybe longer, depending on the variety. Watch their progress carefully, and let them cook to the point where they are on the verge of collapse, longer than you might do for serving them as boiled potatoes. When tested with the point of a knife, they should almost start to break up.

Drain the potatoes very carefully – you want them to be battered and broken, some in small pieces, all their edges bruised. Add the cooked potatoes, thyme and garlic to the roasting tin about thirty-five minutes from the time the bird is due to be done.

Remove the chicken from the oven and leave to rest for fifteen minutes before carving. Turn the heat up to 200°C/Gas 6 and return the potatoes to the oven to crisp even further. Carve the chicken, scatter a little sea salt over the potatoes and serve. For 4.

A new breakfast

January 6

When James first suggested the notion of putting bacon in granola I was sceptical. I know that bacon works with dried fruits (think devils on horseback) and is a fine breakfast when eaten with soft, warm oatcakes, but somehow I couldn’t feel it. It sounded too much like putting a sausage in your porridge.

Well, I was wrong. The crisp bacon (it really must be crisp) tumbled with the warm oats and dried fruits, then stirred through with crème fraîche, had me wolfing a second helping.

A curious one this, and not for the unadventurous, but it is a fine thing indeed to come down to on a freezing Sunday morning or, perhaps even better, on your way back from a night out.

Bacon granola

smoked streaky bacon – 6 rashers

butter – 40g

rolled oats – 100g

whole almonds – 50g

pumpkin seeds – 50g

hemp seeds – 2 tablespoons

dried cranberries – a handful

crème fraîche – 4 tablespoons

Cut the bacon into small chunks the size of a postage stamp. Put the butter into a shallow pan, add the bacon and cook till crisp and golden, then tip in the oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds and dried cranberries. Leave them to warm over a moderate heat, stirring from time to time so the nuts don’t burn.

When the oats are golden and smell warm and sweet, spoon into a bowl, then stir in the créme fraîche. I like to stir only once or twice. Enough for 4.

A winter’s tart

January 9

The ancient idea of melting a large wedge of cheese in front of an open hearth, then, as it softens and melts, scraping the flowing cheese on to bread, is a notion I find almost too delicious to contemplate.

The modern version, where raclette cheese is left to melt over hot potatoes or is melted on a tabletop burner, stands to remind us just how good simple food can be. Once you add a few accompaniments in the shape of knobbly green cornichons and a slice or two cut from a decent fat-speckled salami or, more traditionally, slices of air-dried mountain ham, you have a fine dinner indeed.

Tonight, with that warming image in mind, I knock up a slim, crisp tart, complete with a scattering of sliced cornichons, shredded salami and a few mildly hot, soft green peppercorns. Brought to the table with a bowl of crisp and spiky frisée salad, it keeps out the cold for yet another winter’s night.

Raclette tart

For the pastry:

plain flour – 200g

butter – 100g

an egg yolk

milk – a little

For the filling:

egg yolks – 2

crème fraîche – 200ml

cornichons – 12

salami – 50g, thinly sliced

green peppercorns – 2 teaspoons

thyme leaves – a good pinch

raclette, thinly sliced – 350g

You will need a shallow tart tin with a removable base, about 22cm in diameter.

Make the pastry: put the flour into a large mixing bowl with a pinch of salt. Cut the butter into cubes and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles soft fresh breadcrumbs (a matter of seconds in a food processor). Add the egg yolk, mix a little more, then add enough milk – a couple of tablespoons – to bring the dough to a soft, rollable consistency.

Using a little flour on a wooden board, roll the pastry out and use it to line the tart tin. Line with baking parchment or greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Set aside for twenty to thirty minutes in the fridge to rest. This will stop it shrinking during baking. Set the oven at 200°C/Gas 6 and place a metal baking sheet in the oven.

When the pastry case has rested, bake on the hot baking sheet for twenty minutes. Remove the case from the oven, carefully lift out the paper and baking beans, then return to the oven for five minutes, until dry to the touch. Lower the heat to 180°C/Gas 4.

Put the egg yolks into a mixing bowl and stir in the crème fraîche and a little salt and black pepper. Slice the cornichons in half lengthways, shred the salami, rinse the green peppercorns and chop the thyme leaves.

Place the slices of cheese neatly in the base of the tart case. Scatter over the shredded salami, green peppercorns, thyme leaves and cornichons, then pour over the crème fraîche and egg mixture. Carefully take to the oven, place on the heated tray, and bake for twenty-five to thirty minutes, until the filling is lightly set and pale gold. Leave to cool a little before serving. For 6.

Sometimes, you just want pie

January 12

Peri peri chicken pie

chicken thighs – 8

red onions – 3

medium-hot red chillies – 2

oregano leaves – 10g

garlic – 4 cloves

red wine vinegar – 2 tablespoons

olive oil – 2 tablespoons

Worcestershire sauce – 1 tablespoon

celery seeds – 2 tablespoons

the juice of a lime

plain flour – 2 tablespoons

large tomatoes – 5

For the crust:

puff pastry – 325g

a little beaten egg

Remove the skin from the chicken thighs, then cut the meat from the bones and into large chunks. Peel and thinly slice the onions.

Put the chillies, oregano, garlic, vinegar, oil, Worcestershire sauce, celery seeds and lime juice into a processor and blitz. Scrape out the peri peri seasoning into a large pan over a moderate heat, and as it starts to sizzle, stir in the onions. Cook over a moderate heat for a few minutes, stirring from time to time, then add the chicken pieces.

Continue cooking for seven or eight minutes, then scatter over the flour and cook for two minutes more. Roughly chop the tomatoes, add them to the pan with some salt, and continue cooking for about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Set the oven at 200°C/Gas 6.

Roll out the pastry to cover the top of a large, deep pie dish, leaving enough for an overhang. Tip the chicken filling into the pie dish, then lay the pastry over the surface and brush lightly with beaten egg. Bake for thirty-five to forty minutes, till golden. Serves 4–6.

A frost of sugar and citrus

January 14

A perfect day. Frost on the hedges. Air that bites rather than merely nips. A sky the colour of milk.

We make madeleines. Tiny, three-bite sponge cakes the shape of a scallop shell, the only item of French pâtisserie that has ever really interested me. (Gâteaux have never really been my thing. Nor those camp little macarons.) My madeleines get ground almonds and lemon zest.

The citrus element of the traditional recipe is so subtle as to be barely detectable, so we make a syrup and soak the little cakes in it, spooning the lemony lotion over as the cakes cool. I decide to ice them. A crisp, wafer-thin layer of lemon icing, thin as frost and patchy, like lace. James decides to put black pepper in.

So we sit and drink lemon verbena tea on a bone-white winter afternoon, eating tiny French cakes, soft and damp with citrus, sweet with snow-white icing, the occasional tingle of black pepper.

Lemon and black pepper madeleines

butter – 100g

caster sugar – 100g

the finely grated zest of a lemon

eggs – 2

self-raising flour – 50g

ground almonds – 45g

For the syrup:

caster sugar – 70g

water – 80ml

the juice of half a lemon

For the icing:

icing sugar – 80g

lemon juice – 3 tablespoons

black pepper – 3 grinds

Put the butter, cut into small pieces, into the bowl of a food mixer, add the caster sugar and beat till light and creamy. This will always take longer than you might think, so allow a good eight to ten minutes at a moderate speed.

Set the oven at 230°C/Gas 8. If your madeleine tins aren’t non-stick, brush them lightly with butter and dust with flour. (I find buttering non-stick moulds tends to make the cakes stick. So much for belt and braces.)

Fold in the grated lemon zest, then add the eggs, lightly beaten, a little at a time. Should the mixture show any sign of curdling, fold in a spoonful of flour. Gently fold in the flour and ground almonds, then divide between the tins and bake for eight minutes.

Make the syrup: put the sugar and water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir gently and occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the lemon juice, then set aside. Remove the madeleines from the oven and put them on a cooling rack over a tray. Spoon the lemon syrup over the warm madeleines.

To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl to remove any lumps, then stir in the lemon juice and three good grinds of coarse black pepper. Spoon the icing over the cakes. As it starts to set, grind over a little more pepper and leave to set. Makes 12.

Do not disturb

January 15

Yes, we had the playful bruléed livers and the cod’s curd with bee pollen at A Fuego Negro; the legendary garlic prawns on their lip-piercing wooden skewers at Goiz Argi; the black and mysterious squid in its ink at Ganbara and the dark, marbled Ibérico at La Cepa. Later, we wolfed rabbit with fat nibs of young garlic, sliced anchovies in oil and lemon; fragile tartlets of shredded artichoke with parsley and tiny pixie-hat peppers filled to the brim with creamed cod. We drank endless glasses of fizzy ice-cold Txakoli and sampled more Ribera than I would care to admit, as I suspect do most on a pintxo crawl through the cobbled streets of San Sebastián.

It was a dish of braised pig’s cheeks, eaten just before our last bar of the evening closed, that I wanted to bring home to my own kitchen. Dark as night, soft enough to require no knife, and served in a shallow bowl with smooth, almost soupy, mashed potato, it left me wondering where all our own pig’s cheeks go. (Answer, mince.) Yes, even the most well-stocked butcher may need a few days’ warning, but once you have them in your clutches they are easy to prepare.

Pig’s cheeks respond best to slow cooking in a hearty liquid, imbued perhaps with softened onions, a few sweet root vegetables, a bunch of thyme or bay and a generous depth of red wine, cider or stout. A dinner of braised cheeks takes barely fifteen minutes to prepare. The bulk of the work is done by the oven, where the plump cushions of meat must sit submerged in rich liquor for a couple of hours or more. Do not disturb.

The dish is one of those where you let the gravy from the pan lap the edges of some sort of creamy starch on your plate: a sloppy butter-rich mash of potato, say, or creamed parsnip; a heap of noodles you have tossed in crème fraîche, or perhaps some spoonfuls of plain and simple risotto. If you take the boiled potato route, keep them floury, and crush them into the cheeky gravy with the tines of your fork.

Pig’s cheeks with apples and cider

A pile of cream-rich mashed potato is a fine thing on which to lay your pig’s cheeks, but a mash made from celeriac and kale is my choice at this time of year.

olive oil – 3 tablespoons

pig’s cheeks – 6 (about 600g)

red onions – 3

apples, a sharp variety – 3

chicken stock – 500ml

cider – 500ml

Warm the oil in a flameproof baking dish over a moderate heat. Dust the pig’s cheeks with salt and pepper, then brown them lightly on all sides in the oil. While the cheeks are browning, peel the onions, quarter them, then slice them thickly. Remove the cheeks from the pan to a plate, then add the onions to the pan and let them soften. Set the oven at 160°C/Gas 3. Once the onions are tender and translucent, return the cheeks to the pan, cut the apples into quarters, removing the cores as you go, then add them to the pan together with the stock and the cider. Bring the liquid to the boil, then immediately lower the heat, season with salt and pepper, cover with a lid, and transfer to the oven.

Bake the cheeks, occasionally turning them in their cooking liquor, for three hours. Remove from the oven and allow the cheeks to rest in a warm place. Place the baking dish over a moderate heat and let the sauce reduce in volume a little, until it is thick enough to coat the cheeks. Return the cheeks to the sauce, check the seasoning, and serve with the kale colcannon on the following page. Serves 3.

Kale colcannon

a large celeriac

kale – 100g

butter – a thick slice

Peel and trim the celeriac, then cut it into large pieces. Cook


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *