The lovely Lauren Mathers, along with her partner and two cheeky girls, is a pig farmer. The Happy pigs of Bundarra Berkshires have an incredible flavour and fat content, which is indicative of having a free-range upbringing on their 100 acre home just outside of Barham in NSW. I was lucky enough to have Lauren feature in our most recent video at the Coburg Farmers Market and she stole my attention with her incredible tenacity and knowledge of Berkshire pigs & flavourful pork. The correct pronunciation of Guanciale (Guan-Chia-le) and the many uses of pork fat were all alluring to me.
Happy Pigs make for Yummy Pork, and this is not just a tag-line for Lauren this is an ethos. The pride that comes with knowing your work is leading by example in an industry that is thirsty for change, is huge. And doing so without nitrates or preservative is a giant step in the right direction. I’m keen to learn more so the farms Larder Door is my next go-to destination! (Note to self: catch a class on butchering and charcuterie while I’m at it.)
I wanted to create a dish out of a cut of pork I had never used before so my eyes were drawn to ‘The Pork Cheek’, a very fatty cut full of hard-working flavour that can be slow cooked or cured for incredible depth of nutty deliciousness. With a few pointers from Lauren, ‘slow cook the cheek with prunes! YAHHUM!’ I was on my way to creating this dish. So indulgent, so spicy and sticky that you just lust for more. I will admit this is a rich dish thanks to the buttery puff-pastry but it balances well with a simply dressed slaw on the side, and a chilled cider! You only live once.
prunes, 1 cup, whole & pitted
3 birds eye chilli, finely sliced
fennel seeds, roughly 2tbs
celery, half a bunch, roughly chopped
2 lemons, juice of whole + more for salad dressing
apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup
apple cider, 365ml
sea salt & cracked pepper
puff pastry,make your own by following the link or purchase 2 sheets
cabbage, 1/2 a whole, sliced finely
orange,1 segmented with pith removed
radish, 5 sliced into fine rounds
apple, 1 of the crisp and sweet variety, cored and sliced into fine fingers
Olive oil – the good kind!
Porky Pies… (serves 4ppl)
1. Heat your oven to 160C/140C (fan-forced). Mix a good amount of salt and fennel seeds into the flesh of the scored pork cheek and pork meat, ready to be BBQ’d! Put on the BBQ and give the meat a good sear on all sides, without cooking through, then move to a wooden board to sit before cutting into large chunks.
NB: With pork cheek I learnt my lesson about patience….I discovered I have none! Halfway through slow-roasting the pork cheek I decided that the fat wasn’t rendering fast enough so I cut the fat a few millimetres from the meat and discarded it to a nearby pan for future use…I need Lauren to teach me how to do this better! Yet another reason to visit the farm!
2. In a heavy based pan add the seared pork, apple cider vinegar, apple cider, lemon juice, celery, prunes and chillies. Bring to a simmer and then place in the oven with the lid on for 3-4 hours. When sticky and falling apart the pork cheek filling is ready, remove from the oven to cool and turn the oven up to 220C/200C (fan forced).
NB: I made the filling the day before making the pie, to allow the ‘flavours to rest’…it was also convenient so this is an option if you want to be prepared.
3. Roll out two sheets of puff pastry to fit your pie dish, lay out the base and fill with your slow cooked pork, then top with the other layer of pastry. Use your finger to fold and pinch the pastry around all the edges. Place in the hot oven for 15-20 min or until the pastry is puffed and golden brown. Pie is ready to serve!
NB: You can easily make your own pastry using our easy recipe otherwise you can purchase some from whole-food stores near you – preferably looking for brands that use organic butter as opposed to refined fats and oils.
Salad: Place the cabbage, orange, radish, apple (and any other crunchy veggies you want to utilise) into a bowl, mix in toasted pepita seeds and garnish with some extra chopped parsley and coriander before lightly dressing.
Dressing: Mustard seeds crushed in a mortar and pestle, with 1 part lemon juice, 1 part apple cider vinegar, 2 parts olive-oil, tbs each of finely chopped coriander and parsley, seasoned to taste and shook in a jar until combined. Store in the jar. Simple as!
Serve the Pork Cheek Pie with a side of simply dressed slaw…
Thankyou for giving this a go. True champion effort and I hope you were able to find your most local source of Happy & Yummy pork!