theboywhoatetheworld cooks: Braised Pig Cheeks in Rioja, Sherry Vinegar & Olives

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you will know how close Spanish food is to my heart. Whether its Tapas bar-hopping in Barcelona or a Pintxos pilgrimage to the one and only San Sebastián, few places on the planet in my mind offer flavours more bold & moreish than Spain.

The lovely folks at Expedia recently invited me to particpate in their #WorldOnAPlate campaign. The challenge? – to devise a recipe that would represent the very best of Spain on a plate using this box of goodies….

Expedia World on a Plate

And with top notch Spanish paprika, Sherry vinegar, Rioja wine & olive oil amongst other fantastic artisan products, it didn’t take long to be inspired.

If there’s a dish on any Pintxos or Tapas bar menu I can never resist, it’s Braised Pig Cheeks (Carrillada de Cerdo). From a cook’s perspective, not only is the cut of meat great value, but its natural marbling means it stays moist and tender when slow-cooked. Plus, there’s no need to chop it up or trim off any excess fat – they tend to come ready to go in perfectly formed, oval chunks. Braise it long and slow in a low oven with some good quality Rioja, Sherry Vinegar de Jerez, paprika, tomatoes and black olives for a taste of Spain at home on your plate!

Spanish Brasied Pig Cheek

Spanish-inspired Braised Pig Cheeks in Rioja wine, Sherry Vinegar & Olives

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 kg pig’s cheeks
  • 1 onion (150g)
  • 1 carrot (100g)
  • 1 stick celery (50g)
  • 4 tbsp mild olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed and lightly bruised
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 ½ tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 250ml red Rioja wine
  • 35ml Sherry Vinegar (from Jerez preferably)
  • 500ml veal (or beef) stock
  • 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 1 ½ tbsp of light Muscovado sugar
  • 150g pitted Spanish black olives
  • Sea salt and black pepper (to taste)
  • 2 tbsp flaked almonds, toasted (for garnish)
  • Picked thyme leaves (for garnish)


  1. In an oven-proof, casserole pan (lidded), heat up a tablespoon of olive oil. Season the pig’s cheeks with some salt and pepper then fry for 1 to 2 minutes on a high heat until lightly browned all round. Remove and set aside.
  1. In the same pan you browned the cheeks in, add a little bit more olive oil and saute the carrots, celery and onions for 4-5 minutes on a medium heat. Add the paprika, cumin, bay leaf and thyme and cook with the vegetables for a further 2-3 minutes.
  1. Next, add the Rioja wine and Sherry Vinegar to the pan, making sure to scrape and deglaze all the caramelised bits off the bottom of the pot. On a high heat, reduce the wine and vinegar by about two thirds until it thickens to a syrupy consistency. Now, add the veal stock, tinned tomatoes, olives, muscovado sugar and browned pig’s cheeks back into the pan. Bring to a simmer then cover with a lid (or a couple layers of foil if you don’t have a lidded pot) and slow-braise for 3 hours in a 140C oven until the meat is tender and the sauce has reduced.
  1. Season with salt, black pepper and muscovado sugar to taste then garnish with picked thyme leaves and toasted flaked almonds. Serve the pig’s cheeks with some simple crushed or mashed potatoes spiked with smoked paprika and oregano.

Buen Provecho!


p.s. Many thanks to Expedia & the team at MediaCom for the invitation to partake in their #ExpediaWorldOnAPlate challenge!