About this recipe:Slow-cooked meat is the best thing ever; it always comes out so succulent and tender. This dish is so tasty it makes my mouth water just thinking about it! The brining of the meat really helps in making it really tender and moist. It's definitely worth the extra effort.
To brine the cheeks: place 1L of water in a pan and add salt, 2 garlic cloves, the bay leaf and peppercorns. Heat until salt has dissolved, then leave to cool completely. Pour the cooled brine over the pig's cheeks in a plastic container. There should be enough liquid to completely immerse them. Make sure they're immersed by weighing them down with something. Place in the fridge or a cool larder and leave for 24 hours.
Drain off the brine and rinse the cheeks. Now put back into the container and immerse with fresh water. Leave overnight, or for 6 to 8 hours.
Now for the cooking: Preheat the oven to 140 C / Gas 1. Get a casserole style pan that can be used both on the stove and in the oven. Heat a little oil, then add bacon, cut into chunky cubes. Fry over a high heat until just starting to colour, then add carrots and onions, cut into large chunks. Add 4 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole.
Continue to fry over a high heat, allowing the vegetables and the bacon to brown nicely. Add ale, 200ml of water and chopped tomatoes. Throw in rosemary and thyme and a generous pinch of cracked black pepper. Cover tightly with foil and a lid to make sure it's thoroughly sealed, then place in the oven for 4 hours, until the meat is falling-apart tender.
Remove the meat, cover with foil and keep warm whilst you prepare the sauce. Strain off the vegetables and bacon from the pan and pour the liquid into a saucepan. Bring to the boil and thicken with beurre manié (a 50-50 mixture of flour and butter), a little at a time, until the desired consistency is achieved. Taste, and season if need be.
Make sure you simmer the sauce for 3 minutes or so after adding the last bit of beurre manié to ensure that the flour is properly cooked. Roughly flake the pig's cheeks apart into rustic chunks, and serve them on top of a good dollop of mash with the sauce poured around. Garnish with some roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley.