Salsify carbonara with confit pork cheek, crackling and chestnuts

About

A low-carb alternative to a traditional pasta carbonara, Geoffrey Smeddle replaces the pasta with ribbons of the root vegetable salsify and tops the dish with a pressed confit pork cheek and some crunchy pork crackling. Curing and cooking the confit pork does take time, but all of the other elements can also be prepared ahead so it’s easy to assemble on the day of serving. Any leftover curing mixture can be kept in an airtight container and used to add a kick to soups, stews and marinades.

Type: Main

Serves: 4

Ingredients

CONFIT PORK

  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp juniper berries
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 250g of salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, cut into 1cm lengths
  • 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, cut into 1cm lengths
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 pork cheeks, weighing 250-300g each
  • duck fat

CRISPY PIGS SKIN

  • 1 pig skin, about 20cm square
  • salt

CARBONARA SAUCE

  • 150g of pancetta, diced
  • 75ml of white wine
  • 450ml of single cream
  • 75g of grated Parmesan
  • black pepper
  • milk, as needed
  • 1 egg yolk, optional

SALSIFY

  • 150ml of white wine
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 8 batons of salsify, rinsed in cold water

TO SERVE

  • 2 tsp chopped parsley
  • 8 vacuum packed cooked chestnuts, finely sliced or shaved
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • freshly ground black pepper

Method

Step 1.

Begin by making a curing mix for the pork cheeks. Add all the spices to a dry frying pan and toast over a moderate heat for a few minutes until aromatic. Transfer the spices to a blender and blitz to a powder. Add the salt, sugar, thyme, rosemary and garlic and blitz again until thoroughly combined

Requires

  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp juniper berries
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 250g of salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, cut into 1cm lengths
  • 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, cut into 1cm lengths
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
Step 2.

Sprinkle a thin, even layer of the curing mixture over a tray and lay the pork cheeks on top, making sure they are not touching each other. Sprinkle over more of the curing mixture, then cover the tray with cling film and leave to cure in the fridge for 24 hours

Requires

  • 2 pork cheeks, weighing 250-300g each
Step 3.

Preheat the oven to 130°C/gas mark 1/2. When the pork has finished curing, thoroughly rinse away the curing mixture from the cheeks, pat dry and place the cheeks in a large baking dish. In a small pan over a low heat, melt enough duck fat to cover the cheeks completely and pour evenly over the cheeks. Place in the oven and cook for approximately 2 hours, until soft and tender. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 30 minutes in the fat

Requires

  • duck fat
Step 4.

Lift the cheeks out of the fat and place on a tray lined with greaseproof paper. Cover with a second piece of paper then top with a flat tray weighed down with something heavy to press the cheeks flat as they cool. Once completely cold, remove the weights and paper and cut into 4 squares. Chill until ready to serve

Step 5.

Meanwhile, trim any excess fat away from the pig skin and lay out flat on a tray. Sprinkle over a little salt and leave for 20 minutes to draw out some of the moisture. Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7

Requires

  • 1 pig skin, about 20cm square
  • salt
Step 6.

Rinse the salt from the skin and dry thoroughly with kitchen paper. Place between 2 baking trays to keep flat and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until really crispy. Allow to cool slightly, transfer to a blender and blitz to coarse crumbs. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve

Step 7.

To make the carbonara sauce, add the diced pancetta to a large pan and place over a gentle heat to allow the fat to render down slowly, which should take about 20 minutes. Add the wine, allow to reduce by half, then add the cream and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the cheese and pepper, adjusting the seasoning as needed. If the sauce is too thick, add a splash of milk. Set aside

Requires

  • 150g of pancetta, diced
  • 75ml of white wine
  • 450ml of single cream
  • 75g of grated Parmesan
  • black pepper
  • milk, as needed
Step 8.

Heat a small frying pan with a dash of oil and add the cheeks, fat-side down, with a pan or weighted tray on top to keep them flat. Cook for 7–8 minutes then turn over, placing the weight back on top, and cook until golden

Step 9.

Meanwhile, prepare the salsify by half-filling a pan with cold water and adding the wine, salt and lemon juice. Peel the salsify then use the peeler to cut them into long ribbons, immediately adding to the pan to prevent discolouration. Place the pan over a high heat, bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes until tender. Drain well

Requires

  • 150ml of white wine
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 8 batons of salsify, rinsed in cold water
Step 10.

Reheat the carbonara sauce gently in a large pan. If using the egg yolk, whisk this in now, being careful not to have the heat too high as it will scramble. Add the salsify to the sauce with the chopped parsley and stir to combine

Requires

  • 1 egg yolk, optional
  • 2 tsp chopped parsley
Step 11.

To serve, divide the salsify and sauce between serving bowls and top with a piece of pork cheek. Scatter over the sliced chestnuts and some of the pork crackling crumb. Season with some extra black pepper and serve immediately

Requires

  • 8 vacuum packed cooked chestnuts, finely sliced or shaved
  • freshly ground black pepper
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