Monday, 17 February 2014

Pig head project 2: jowl, apple, cinnamon and fennel doughnuts

I was really happy with my first attempt at creating something out of the pig’s head in the last post. Before starting the project I was fairy anxious as to how it would turn out and taste, as apart from the Hannibal Lecters among us who really likes the thought of eating the face and ears of something? But it just goes to show that you should always give these squeamish things a try, and in this case it was totally delicious. I love the increased popularity of nose to tail cooking, both for the great food it throws up and the minimised wastage from using more of the animal. Farmers do an amazing job to bring us such fantastic well reared produce, so it takes the piss a bit to throw loads of it straight in the bin. It’s mostly just the psychological barrier that needs to be broken down, especially in this country. We have a lot to learn from other countries and cultures, where all of the unglamorous stuff is often a delicacy. 

As I only used the cheeks and the ears in the last recipe, I still had tons of meat left that I was determined to use. This mostly comprised of the large slabs of jowl, which have a great fat content and almost resemble a piece of pork belly. Traditionally these would be used to make brawn or rillettes, but I had other ideas. For a while now I had been wanting to make doughnuts, but instead of your traditional cream or jam filled varieties I thought about giving them a little twist. Not having a mega sweet tooth, I often ate them and craved something savoury and salty to cut through all of the sugar. So why not combine the two? I guess the inspiration was probably born from eating things like Asian steamed pork buns, apart from this would be much dirtier and more deep fried.

With the doughnut idea, I originally intended the meat to be shredded confit duck, combined with something like cherry. But recently I had an apple filling, and the pork idea lit up. Although normally you would pipe the jam into the cooked buns, the coarseness of the cooked pork mixture meant that I stuffed the dough after the first proving process. I was sceptical about this at first and thought that this might upset the raising process, but once cooked the filling stayed inside and the dough was light and fluffy. I was really pleased with the taste too, that had just the right balance of sweetness, richness and saltiness. It has also opened up my eyes to all of the other filling possibilities out there.

They went down a treat with everyone who I gave them too. After a few nervous looks at the prospect of a pig head doughnut they were wolfed down.

Makes about 8 large doughnuts.


For the dough:

550g strong white flour, plus more for dusting 

14g instant yeast 
60g caster sugar 
40g salted butter, softened 
2 eggs 
150ml milk 
125ml water 
Vegetable oil for deep frying, about 2ltrs.

For the filling:

1 x pork jowl, about 600/700g 

1 carrot, halved vertically 
1 leek, halved vertically 
1 onion, sliced thickly 
3 cloves of garlic 
1 star anise 
1 bay leaf 
A few sprigs of thyme 
1 cinnamon stick 
1 tbsp fennel seeds 
1 glass of white wine 
1 braeburn apple, peeled and cut into large chunks 
30g butter 
1 tbsp caster sugar, or to taste 
Salt and pepper

For the sugar coating: 

4 tbsp caster sugar 
1 tsp cinnamon 
1 tsp fennel seeds 
A good pinch of salt


Pre-heat the oven to 160⁰C. 

First roast the pork jowl. Use the sliced leek, onion, carrot and garlic as a trivet in the bottom of a roasting dish. Top with the star anise, cinnamon, fennel seeds, thyme, seasoning, white wine and about 150ml of water. Score ½ cm marks into the pork skin and rub in a generous amount of salt. Place the meat on top of the trivet and cover with foil. Bake for 3 hours, or until the meat is really tender, adding the apples underneath the meat for the last hour. Raise the temperature of the oven to 220⁰C and continue to roast until the crackling is crunchy. Strip the soft meat from the crackling, it should fall away with little pressure, and shred well. Reserve the roasted apple chunks. Cut the crackling into strips and sprinkle with salt. 

To make the doughnut dough, get a large bowl and add the flour, sugar, a good pinch of salt and butter. Form a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the eggs and water. Warm the milk to a lukewarm temperature and stir in the yeast. Add this mixture to the other wet ingredients and combine them into the dry ingredients using a spoon until it comes together. Tip the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead really well for about 7-8 minutes, or until smooth and slightly elasticky. Put the dough into a clean bowl and cover with a layer of clingfilm. Leave in a warm area for about an hour to prove.

While the dough is proving make the filling. Chop up the roasted apple chunks and add to the shredded pork meat. Heat up the butter in a saucepan on a medium temperature. Add the meat and the apple along with the sugar and some seasoning. Stir together, cover the saucepan and cook gently for about ten minutes. Mash the filling roughly so that everything is combined yet still a little chunky, then taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Tip out onto a plate and allow to cool. 

When the dough has had its first prove, tip out and divide into 8 pieces, depending on how many and what size you require. Knead each piece a couple of times to get rid of some of the air and then flatten a little to create a thick disk. Spoon a tablespoon of the cold filling mixture into the middle and then carefully seal around it, making sure there are no gaps. Roll the doughnuts to create a round bun shape and then transfer to a well-floured surface, seal side down. Cover loosely with a layer of cling film and allow to prove for another hour.

To make the sugar coating, put the sugar, cinnamon, fennel seeds and salt into a pestle and mortar and crush together really well.

When the doughnuts have nearly finished their proving time, start heating the frying oil in a large, wide saucepan to 160⁰C.

To cook the doughnuts, carefully lower them into the hot oil using a large greased spoon. Cook in small batches depending on the size of your saucepan, but do not overcrowd. Fry slowly for about 4-5 minutes on each side to ensure that the middles are cooked through. Scatter a good amount of the sugar coating onto a plate or board. As soon as each doughnut is cooked, transfer straight over and roll well so that every bit of the surface is covered. Eat whilst still warm, with a bit of the crackling on the side.


  1. Hooray for championing the pig head! These doughnuts look utterly amazing, I've never attempted making savoury ones but as a lover of deep fried dough and pork, I'm totally adding these to my to-do list.

  2. Thanks Hannah! How did the beer ones turn out? Love the idea of those!