Fried apples with sage, pig’s cheek & celeriac

Fried apples with sage, pig’s cheek & celeriac

Andrew Montgomery

I love this plate of food. It’s rustic and humble, but it’s got everything I could hope for. Pig’s cheek is delicious, so if you haven’t had it before, I’d urge you to give it a go. I always use the whole cheek, rather than the dark middle chunk of meat, sometimes sold as the ‘cushion’. The whole cheek offers much more. You’ll need to brine it two days before you want to serve the dish.


Quantity Ingredient
300g fine sea salt
1 free-range or organic whole pig’s cheek
1 onion, quartered
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
1/2 small celeriac, peeled and cubed
1 knob butter
2 dessert apples, cored and cut into wedges, such as russet or Cox
1 bunch small sage leaves
1 thyme sprig
freshly ground black pepper


  1. First, make a brine. Find a large plastic bowl. Add the sea salt and 1 litre of water and whisk well until the salt dissolves. Submerge the pig’s cheek in the brine and refrigerate for 48 hours.
  2. To cook, remove the cheek from the brine, rinse it, then place it in a large heavy-based pan with the onion, carrots, celery and bay leaves. Cover with water, place the pan on a high heat and bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook gently, uncovered, for 2½–3 hours or until the cheek meat and skin are tender. Remove the whole cheek and set aside to cool, then refrigerate. Pour the stock through a sieve into a clean bowl, cover the stock, allow to cool, then refrigerate that, too.
  3. Skim the majority of the fat from the top of the chilled stock. Place the celeriac in a heavy-based pan. Pour over enough of the liquid stock to cover the celeriac and place it on a high heat. Bring to a simmer, then allow it to simmer gently for 20–30 minutes, until the celeriac is tender. Use a slotted spoon to remove the celeriac from the pan into a food processor. Spoon over just a little stock, add the butter, then blitz until smooth. Season to taste.
  4. Place a large frying pan on a medium–high heat. Slice the cooked cheek into 2 thick or 4 thinner slices. (Reserve any leftovers for another day – they’re great fried until crisp and scattered over lettuce and boiled eggs.) Fry the cheek for 3–4 minutes on each side, or until golden and heated through. Set aside. Add the apples to the pan along with a little salt and pepper, the sage leaves and thyme sprigs and fry, turning the apples in the well-flavoured pork fat, for 1–2 minutes until lightly caramelized at the edges.
  5. Spoon the celeriac equally between two bowls, then add some fried apples and sage and the crispy cheek slices. Serve immediately.
River Cottage
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