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NEW Recipes: Niall McKenna's pork cheeks with polenta

WE have just returned from enjoying a family holiday in sunny Italy and as a chef I love taking the opportunity to experience new cuisines and tasting produce in a new environment.

We found that a lot of the dishes we consumed in Italy used the same produce we use at home but were cooked in a completely different way or served with a different accompaniment - this had a huge impact on flavour.

Pork cheeks are an ingredient used widely in Italy and have been on the menu in our restaurant for a while now. This week's recipe - pork cheeks cooked in a rich red wine and served with a creamy polenta - has been inspired by my experience abroad.

Polenta is an ingredient that we always have in our cupboards at home and makes a delicious alternative to pasta or potatoes.

PORK CHEEKS WITH PRUNES

(Serves 6)

14 pig cheeks, fat trimmed

1 bottle of red wine - Shiraz works best

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

1/2 bulb of garlic, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 onion, chopped

Plain flour for dusting

50g unsalted butter

4 bay leaves

4 sprigs thyme

1.5 litres chicken stock

12 prunes, stone removed

METHOD

Start by placing the trimmed pig cheeks in a bowl, add in the wine, cover and place in fridge for 6 hours.

Place a casserole dish on a medium heat, add in the oil and cook off the garlic, carrot and onion until browned. Reduce to a low heat.

Take the pig cheeks out of the wine and keep the wine for cooking. Pat the pig cheeks dry with a clean cloth and dust with flour. Add the cheeks to the casserole and caramelise alongside the vegetables.

Add in the butter, thyme and bay leaves and cook for a further three minutes. Pour over the wine and stock and bring to the boil. Skim off any impurities and reduce heat to a simmer.

Add in the prunes and place the lid on the dish, cooking for a further 90 minutes, continually skimming off impurities. Test that the cheeks are tender and if not, cook for a further 30 minutes.

Taste and season if required before serving.

CREAMY POLENTA

(Serves 6)

1 litre full fat milk

350g polenta flour

50g unsalted butter

75g grated Parmesan

Sea salt

Pepper

Olive oil

METHOD

Start by placing the milk into a pot and bringing to the boil.

Whisk in the polenta until it dissolves and reduce the heat to a simmer.

Cook on a low heat for 30 minutes and season to taste. If cooked, add in the butter and Parmesan and whisk until all is combined.

Season to taste and serve with a glug of olive oil on top.

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