RECIPE: Pig cheek casserole

My pig's cheeks in cider with roast apple slices is one of the most popular recipes on this blog. It still gets a ton of hits. The main difference is that back then in 2010 when I wrote the post, you could get a bag of cheeks for £1.20. Now word is very much out that these gelatinous, melting soft pillows of meat are not just dog bowl fodder, but one of the prized parts of the pig, the price has racked right up. This last bag of cheeks cost £7.99/kg from Waitrose so nearer £5.50. Still, grab some if you can get them (the things are scarce these days!) as the reward it worth it at any cost. 

The other change is that now we have a child, cooking things in booze isn't really ideal so I have crafted a recipe that slowly cooks the cheeks in stock. The cider vinegar replaces the acidic twist I think a good sauce needs instead. Normally I pop these in the oven but 2 hours gently simmering on the stove was just as good. I served the cheeks with wet Parmesan polenta and sprout flowers, but good ol' mash and savoy is good as well. 

Serves 2-3

Olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Plain flour, for dusting
700g pigs cheeks (about 8 medium sized cheeks)
30 ml cider vinegar
600ml chicken stock (700ml stock for 1.5kg cheeks)
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1/4 swede, peeled and chopped
100g button mushroom, cleaned and left whole if small or halved
2 bay leaf
2 rosemary sprig
Heaped tbs tomato puree

Trim the cheeks of excess fat, removing any membrane, sinew etc.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed casserole pot and gently fry chopped onion until translucent. Add the crushed garlic clove for a few minutes. Remove both from the pan and set aside.

In a shallow bowl, season the plain flour and dust each pig cheek in it. Add more oil to the casserole pot and brown cheeks evenly. Do this in batches so the pan doesn't get crowded.

Remove the cheeks and set aside. Add the cider vinegar and a dash of the chicken stock to thoroughly deglaze pan, scraping any flour off the bottom of the pan.

Add back in the onions, garlic, pigs cheeks with the chopped vegetables, herbs, remaining stock and tomato puree.

Simmer gently for 2 hours, giving the casserole a stir and checking that the sauce does not reduce down too much. It should thicken well, but add more water if it looks like it may dry out.  

Turn off the heat and just allow the casserole to stand for 15 minutes. This helps it become even more tender. 

Before and after 2 hours

REVIEW: My Slice, Brighton

We see a lot of Neapolitan style pizza in the UK but less of Roman Al Taglio, which is baked in large rectangular trays and sold by the slice or even by the weight. It's thicker and more rigid than Neapolitan, more like a fine focaccia, but still absolutely delicious for lunch on the fly. The "Michelangelo of pizza", Gabriele Bonci is one of the best - when in Rome, do as the Romans do and head to Pizzarium, trust me. You'll also commonly see Scrocchiarella which is another type of Roman pizza that is very thin and crisp and I think this is the style My Slice have gone with.

Now, pizza is all about the dough which is a live beast. Great dough is full of flavour, vibrancy and character. Eating it makes you feel good, it's the classic comfort food. But great dough needs to be fresh and you need a truckload of skill to craft it well.

But here the bases are ludicrously thin, with hardly any air and the reheating process dries the base out further. (The gluten free options were thinner still at literally 2mm thick! Great if you are on a diet.) It lacks any sort of personality really, it just exists as a crisp carrier to the topping. Scrocchiarella bases are fine if you are enjoying full pizzas but for a decent feed by the slice, you would need a few for a satisfying lunch. I personally think al taglio is more suited to the thin focaccia style; easy to eat on the go, satisfying and as much as I hate the term, has great mouth feel.

gluten-free bases - oh dear
To be fair, the kitchen set up at Cranbourne Street would make it impossible to make the dough on site, so it comes as no surprise that it is actually made and part-baked in Italy, blast frozen and delivered to Brighton. I'm sure the dough is probably perfectly fine, but I imagine the freezing and re-baking process must affect the result. It just doesn't compare to the texture and taste of al taglio I've eaten in Italy, and I've eaten A LOT! Also, not making the fundamental part of your product yourself is rather puzzling. (Far better if you fancy a trip to Hove and want to try an al taglio-ish style, is at baking heavyweights Sugar Dough - soon to have a Brighton location.)

Anyway, base aside I was pleased to see the classic potato and rosemary on offer and toppings all looked quite nice and fresh. There are also salads and some sweet muffins and flapjacks for sale too.

As an alternative to a sarnie when you are shopping I would say pop in and give them a go, it's affordable and pleasant enough.

The location, right by Churchill Square shopping centre may well prove be their saviour as the footfall alone will keep them in the black I'm sure. But for me, no, it doesn't make me nostalgic for a taste of home at all.
Cranbourne Street, Brighton

REVIEW: Sugardough, Hove

After reading glowing review after glowing review of Sugardough, I finally managed to get over the border to Hove to pay them a visit. The issue was I waited until I was on a dairy free diet trial (feeding a windy baby). And what I liked most about Sugardough was that, despite a huge selection, there was NOTHING I could eat under that dietary restriction. With no apologies, the food here is created for taste and everyone knows that baking includes truckload of dairy. As it should be.

So instead I watched the constant queue gorge on amazing looking huge pies, quiches, gorgeous tarts, pastries and cakes. They are super busy here and for an uninspired stretch of retail near the King Alfred is quite an achievement. Word on the street is that they are looking to come to Brighton. Here's hoping.

The interior is really cute too with lots of antique furniture and display cases to give it a homely, lived in vibe. If you can secure yourself one of the few tables, it's a really nice spot for lunch or breakfast. 

But really, I was here for the pizza (what, really?!), which they sell al taglio (by the slice). Unlike the classic Neapolitan style pizza, this is closer to Roman style and even closer to a type of pizza they sell in Italian bakeries (never pizzerias) called Pizza Rossa. This typically is a dough base cooked in large trays with copious amounts of olive oil. This results in almost a fried quality to the base and if you are lucky enough to get a corner piece, you'll find it slightly charred and chewy. Probably the most delicious thing you'll put in your mouth. But unlike the pizza rossa which is only ever topped with tomato sauce and herbs, Sugardough have more variations like roast vegetables or (a Roman classic) Potato and rosemary. 

Although not quite exactly like the pizza rossa back home, it's pretty close and worth a trip to get yourself a slice. 

I did get to try a loaf of the bread though, an unusual potato, rosemary and garlic loaf, which I really enjoyed. All the bread looks great, especially the beautiful spelt loaves. 

Happily, I'm now back on the dairy, so I'll definitely be back to sample a lot more.

5 Victoria Terrace, Hove

REVIEW Papa Pitta, Brighton

I can't think of a food with a worse reputation than the kebab. In this country we typically think of that grey stack of rotating meat made from... well, best not think about it really.

Thankfully I waited until Cypriot Papa Pitta rolled into town to try my very first one. They want to change the way we think about them and, in their words, "reclaim the kebab from the drunk man".

You'll find Papa Pitta in the charming,  ramshackle Diplock Market on North Road. The smokey bbq smell and sounds will greet you first as you pass the dusty books and warped picture frames on sale at the front of the market. It literally is a hidden gem. And they've certainly made the best of the space with beautiful attention to detail from the framed family photos on each table to the printed food wrap.

The menu is short but heck, you'll want it all. There are three kebabs of offer; chicken, pork or halloumi (vegan option to be added shortly). Meats are marinated for 24 hours, cooked souvlaki style over charcoal and fill the pitta with lots of fresh tomato, onion, cucumber and shredded lettuce for company. Tzatziki and a fierce chilli sauce are also served with it in pretty little glasses.

Although I really enjoyed the kebabs (what's not to like?) I actually think the rest of the menu is worth a serious look. I loved the beetroot salad with crumbled feta, crushed walnuts and mint. The village salad is fresh and varied. Dips and baked marinated feta are made even more delicious with the flatbreads that have been given a gorgeous smoked flavour and crunch from the chargrill.

The chubby coarse traditional sheftalias sausages are packed full of flavour. And great with your kebab if nothing else are the moreish twice fried badada potatoes.

Papa Pitta makes you feel like you are on holiday despite being slap bang in the middle of Brighton. It's sunny happy food served with a warm welcome. The food is ideal for sharing and with prices just a mere £2-4 for each side, you may as well cancel your afternoon, grab your family or friends, order absolutely everything and soak up the chilled vibes.

They are also very family friendly with toys and crayons as well as mini kebab pittas. Junior GF would be all over that!

It really is a unique place that (until they find a permanent residence) is there until the end of August from 12 noon til 10pm. Go go go.

Papa Pitta
Diplocks Market, North Road, Brighton
I was a guest of Papa Pitta. Opinion, as always, my own.

PRODUCT REVIEW: The Collective live gourmet yoghurt

I love yoghurt. Which is just as well as I had the full range from The Collective dairy dropped off at my door this week. This is a great looking brand and I had passed it on the shelves before as I purchased my low fat, joyless, saccharine tasting pots (why do I buy low fat yoghurt, it tastes RUBBISH).

So faced with really interesting flavours like Raspberry & Amaretto, Coconut & Lime and Russian Fudge rippled through their gorgeously 5% fat live yogurt, I was pretty much a kid in a sweet shop. Yet I suppose with live cultures and no freaky ingredients, a er, healthier kid in the um, dairy.

What makes The Collective a bit different is that it started in New Zealand by a couple of chefs, so no surprise that taste is at the forefront here. They teamed up with some peeps in the UK to bring it over here too. And apart from the "Suckies" pouches for kids which are made in France, the milk comes from Somerset daily from reputable farms.

The brand reminds me of the early days of Innocent or the fantastic Lick frozen yoghurt. It's very approachable, fun, slightly edgy and steers away from the corporate consumer world, giving it great shelf appeal, particularly in the manilla aisle of yoghurt. But definitely a brand for the food conscious as well as the younger market.

So, calcium featured pretty heavily in my diet this week and I really enjoyed pretty much all of the flavours. If you haven't tried this brand then definitely pick up one when you can. They are available in large 500g pots or single serve 150g pots (with spoons). I didn't get the suckies for kids in the squeezable pouches (kids LOVE this format), but I'd be happier feeding my kids these as they don't have added sugars and artificial additions.

So out of the lot, here are my favourites...

The base yogurt (available as Straight Up plain), is thick, rich and decadent. I also love the tartness too. I don't have much of a sweet tooth, so this is up my street and proves to be a good contrast to their flavours that ripple through the yoghurt base.  I found it to be a really useful kitchen standby for finishing savoury dishes.

While you get the chance, do try and grab the limited edition Raspberry and Amaretto flavour. This was very unusual and grown-up delicious (there should be more alcohol in yoghurt I say!). Pretty much a dessert substitute too.

The Rhubarb, Vanilla and Lemongrass edition was a collaboration with Anna Hansen from the great Modern Pantry. I loved the tartness of the rhubarb and the sauce was flecked with plenty of vanilla seeds. The hint of lemongrass was very subtle - I could barely detect it, but still, lovely and 5p per tub goes to Action Against Hunger.

The Scottish Raspberry version really packed a punch and was the family favourite. The vivid ruby sauce looked beautiful too.

And I loved my bespoke passion friut pack too. Which I ate ALL myself, obviously. The passion fruit seeds which dotted the sauce gave a gorgeous toothsome crunch. The Mighty Mango version is similar without any seeds if you prefer a smoother texture.

The whole family adored all of them really. Even my husband who never eats the stuff. As for my three year old, he kept asking me for more "swirly yoghurt". I don't blame the little fella.

I was sent these products for review. Words, as always, are my own.

GF Guides | Kids menus and child friendly restaurants in Brighton

I was in one of the most popular pubs just outside of Brighton with the family. It was the first time I took Baby Foodie, then 15 months, out to eat something off the kids menu and I was quite excited about it. A depressing little menu arrived with sausages and chips, burger and chips, pasta (luckily not with chips...I think) and little else. Nothing I would really give my little bumpkin to eat at the worst of times - this little dude is really into exploring foods. The kids menu here felt like a bit of an afterthought. There must be better stuff out there, right?

Anyway, parents of Brighton rejoice. There is plenty of fresh, healthy food on offer and some rather exciting stuff as well to encourage new tastes and explore cultures in restaurants we would be seen dead in before the spogs came along.

The big BUT is that not enough of the good Brighton restaurants have their children's menus on their sites so below are my favourites showing sample menus after enquiring around. Before you head over to the laminated menu places you know will accommodate you, give one of the independents or good chain restaurants a ring. Most will have something wonderful. I hope that meals created especially for children will have less salt and maybe less spice hence why I prefer them for my child's age but many restaurants will give you a smaller portion off the standard menu if you prefer that.

Start them on that food-loving journey!

Curry Leaf Cafe (Indian)
Get those tastebuds going! Curry Leaf Cafe is a great restaurant for kids. A 3 course kids' vegetarian (£6.50) or meat (£7.00) menu is available with pakora and yoghurt raita and gently spiced Makhani curry with rice or naan. They finish with a scoop of ice-cream in gorgeous flavours like coconut & lime, mango & pistachio or banana, cardamom & salted caramel.

Pho (Vietnamese)
If Junior Foodie could eat one thing, it would be noodles and broth. He loves Italian brodo! However Vietnamese Pho isn't far off it and his choice here would be the Mini Pho Noodle Soup with noodles, homemade stock and chicken or beef. Otherwise there is Mini Pho Xao (Wok fried rice noodles with bean sprouts and mange tout, a choice of chicken, beef or tofu and mushrooms), Chicken Noodles (noodles with sliced chicken breast, cucumber, carrot pickle and a sweet dipping sauce) or Wok Fried Rice with Egg (with chicken, veggies or prawns). The venue is large and buggy friendly too.

Nu Posto (Pizza)
The only place I'd take my kids for pizza in Brighton. Proper Neapolitan dough, authentic toppings and quality ingredients. They will do smaller pizzas for the kids on request too. The venue is on West Street but is huge and can accommodate buggies easily - a rare thing in Brighton!

H.EN (Chicken Shop)
If you care about ethics as well as quality, then H.EN is your place for (welfare) chicken and (sweet potato) chips. Although they are working on a specific kids menu, the food in general is very appealing to young tastes. They also win mega points for their little kids table with chalkboard top too!

Terre a Terre (Vegetarian)
This is one of the best menus for kids in Brighton. They have put as much thought and love into it as their main menu. From simple eggs on bread/eggy bread to their fabulous rostis with tomato or creamed spinach sauce or corn cakes with avocado spice smash, there is quite a lot to choose from. Starters like crudités and dips are offered as well as divine little desserts from healthy fruit plates to treats like doughnut straws with chocolate sauce. There's also an extensive kids drinks menu too. Everything is well priced from £2-£4 and they even offer free Hipp organic baby food for those starting their weaning journey. 5 stars Terre a Terre!

Sams of Brighton (British)
I've been a big fan of Sam's no nonsense fresh food and the kids menu here is in line with the ethos of the restaurant. For £5.95 you can get a soft drink, breadsticks (ALL kids love breadsticks), a homemade main like shepherds pie, pasta and sauce or fishcakes and on Sundays, a mini portion of the Roast. Price includes a portion of ice cream as well.

Ginger Fox/Ginger Pig (British)
The Gingerman Group of restaurants have always been child-friendly, even going to the lengths of raising over £26,000 for The Rocking Horse Appeal for sick children in Sussex and Surrey. £1 from every kids meal will go to this fantastic cause. The £7.50 meal includes a drink, a balanced main like pasta bake and peas, homemade fishcakes, Redlands Farm bangers and mash and a homemade ice cream in a cone with spacedust. Yeah, spacedust! They can also offer any of the main meals as a smaller portion too.

Food For Friends (Vegetarian)
Food For Friends have overhauled their kids menu to include far more interesting dishes. Mains such as soup with mini focaccia pizza, breaded risotto and mozzarella balls or homemade gnocchi and finishing with fresh strawberries with chocolate dipping sauces or a warm chocolate brownie are a welcome change to the norm. Mains are £4 and desserts £3, so decent value for money too.

Moshimo (Japanese)
Possibly the most thrilling dining venue for youngsters, Moshimo offer a really good value meal for under 10s at £4.90 including a Sushi Set, Chicken or Salmon in their home-made Teriyaki sauce or a Tempura Set served with sticky rice and salad. I can't wait to expose Baby Foodie to the different tastes and textures on offer here. He will no doubt try and grab things off the sushi conveyer belt as well though!

The Chilli Pickle (Indian)
The Chilli Pickle is in a great central location for family dining and one of my favourite Brighton restaurants. You can add more spice for adventurous palettes but otherwise the mini thali's are mild with either chicken or vegetable curry and rice, riatta, chutney, poppodom and baby naan. There is also spiced fried chicken, Malai chicken kebab, or mini dosa. These are £5.50 each and you can add a dessert for £2.

Agua Dulce (Spanish)
Ok, no kids menu, but who needs one with tapas? Kids LOVE this style of food where they can pick and choose and help themselves, although my kid always hogs the entire plate of anchovies! Fish croquettes, hams, paella, chorizo, salads, dips, bread,'s all here. Staff are very friendly and accommodating with children too.

Crafty Chooks
 (Chicken shop)

A free range rotisserie chicken restaurant. A menu is available for the kids, with 2 courses and a drink for £6.95. Expect healthier alternatives like free range schnitzel and slaw.

Coggings and Co (British)
If I were to take my kid out for burgers, then it would probably be here due to the high quality of their local ingredients. For £6.50 there is a choice of mini beef burger or chargrilled chicken burger with chips or Macaroni cheese. Also included is a Downsview ice cream and juice.

La Choza (Mexican)
Kids shouldn't be left out of the street food mania sweeping Britain. La Choza offer kids a choice of taco, tostada, mini burrito/burrito bowl or baby quesedilla with any filling, nacho chips and a drink for £4.50.

Riddle & Finns (Fish)
This great fish restaurant have a set menu available for sophisticated little diners at a reasonable price of £4.95. This includes an optional espresso cup of fish soup followed by fish goujons, grilled salmon fillet, tomato & cheese pasta or fish soup with toast. Sides include fries or potatoes and green vegetables, mushy peas or salad. Dessert is a scoop of ice cream in a cone. Just be aware that tables are bar height here but it's a lovely restaurant.

Coal Shed (British)
Kids can sample the great food at The Coal Shed, cooked on those fancy Josper charcoal ovens. Although they don't have an official kids menu, for £5 they offer minute steak with chips or veg, burger and chips or salad, grilled or battered fish with veg or chips or a smaller portion of the vegetarian option from main menu. They can also offer a smaller version of any dish from the a la carte too.

Moksha Caffe (British)
This is a very child friendly cafe with plenty of room for buggies. It's near to The Level Park so you don't have to rely on the howler that is Velo Cafe in the park itself. The kid's menu is well thought through, affordable (£2.95-£4.95) and includes great breakfast and lunch options like blueberry pancakes, french toast, omelettes, jackets potatoes and toasties. 

Wagamama (Japanese)
Ok, so although this is a chain, they really cater so well for children I have to give a mention. As well as the fantastic Phil & Ted clip on highchairs and plenty of space, their little menu is really good too. Cod balls or simple grilled chicken or fish with rice and vegetables are on offer as well as mini versions of their Ramen, Yaki Soba or Katsu. Baby Foodie loves their noodle dishes.

Graphic Foodie Guides 
A series of targeted, helpful guides for Brighton. If you would like me to create a guide on anything in particular drop me an email!
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REVIEW: Nu Posto, Brighton

It's been a long old journey in finding the best, hell, even half decent pizza in Brighton. Over 15 places have been reviewed in my post with some absolute shockers along the way (La Cucina and your Rich Tea bases, I'm looking at you.)

But moving on, here we are at the latest pizzeria opening, Nu Posto, and I can say it was worth the wait.

Just look at it! It ticks all the criteria - perfectly formed cornicione, gorgeous leoparding, charred underskirt. The dough has a great taste, was well seasoned with the classic Neapolitan pillow soft, chewy rim. The tomato sauce was full flavoured and full of sunshine and the mozzarella of super quality. Just two basil leaves were all that was needed to complete this a fabulous Margarita. Simplicity and quality - the two essential ingredients to any decent pizza. 

It was so good I had to return just two days later for more! This time a Vietri with mozzarella, rocket, tomatoes and capocollo and a Postiano with tomato sauce, mozzarella and fiery Nduja sausage. Again, really good bases and superb quality ingredients.

Now this is no fluke. The people behind Nuposto are experienced restaurateurs and pizzeria owners from Naples. They know dough like the back of their hand, clearly.

Despite an enormous premises, they don't want to deviate from their core offering of pizza, which I think is a great idea to keep their focus. Only a few simple antipasti and desserts keep the pizza company on the menu. And don't come expecting a Hawaiian special. The pizzas all celebrate Italian produce with regional salume and even friarielli, a type of fine broccoli traditionally used on Neapolitan pizza. Had I not been with my new baby, I may have also made a dent in the drinks list which includes a few classic and modern twists on some Italian cocktails.

The place itself is nicely designed with the two pizza ovens in pride of place. The ovens themselves run on gas not wood interestingly. But the owners have a wood oven in one of their restaurants in Italy and gas ovens in the other. Apparently there is little difference in the resulting pizza. Personally, I still think wood burning ovens add a layer of taste but I will let it go here as they tick so many other boxes.

Nu Posto is also ideal for families and there is plenty of space for buggies, good news for parents as Brighton is thin on the ground for decent places to eat with room. Staff are particularly sweet to little ones too. They may want to advertise the fact that they offer children's pizzas though. It's not advertised anywhere, not even the menu and I had to ask specifically.

So yeah, I'm finally happy to have a pizzeria in Brighton I  recommended to people with confidence. It would normally take a lot to get me to dine down West Street, but I'll happily come down now, past the dodgy bars and scantily clad tourists to worship at this carbohydrate temple.

14 West Street

For all of the Brighton and Hove pizza reviews, visit the list here: