Thursday 6 May 2010

Beef Cheeks

Flushed with my recent Pork Cheek success (see what I did there?) I've wasted no time in indulging in some more cheeky goodness…

*Brief pause for a misguided ponder on whether I should illustrate this post with a picture of the cheeky girls. Coming to my senses and recoiling in horror at this image, I decide, thankfully, for all concerned – that it’s a terrible idea*

Cheeky, Cheeky!

Errr, yes – so Cheeks… My next attempt would be of the Ox variety. Waitrose is currently championing ‘forgotten cuts’ and amazingly for a supermarket chain, they don’t appear to be cashing-in on it. Three shiny pound coins bought me two surprisingly hefty Ox cheeks, weighing them in my hand; I slinked away from the counter feeling like I’d just purchased the meat bargain of the century.

Little did I realise what trouble they would cause me, as I squirreled them away in the freezer for some future cheek action.

*Fast-forward two weeks*

Bounding from my pit in an irritatingly good mood and declaring that today of all days would be “cheek day” – I retrieved the meaty parcel from the freezer to defrost. At this point, I had no idea how I’d cook them…. I hadn’t even considered it. I knew that Ox cheek is a cut that needs a long slow cook, and I was thinking a few hours…. as far as I was concerned, I had loads of time….
Later that morning, with the cheeks half defrosted, I finally got around to checking a few recipes and was alarmed to find that nearly all, without exception require the cheeks to be marinated overnight to soften them up and even then they still need some serious cooking.

Dinner at 10pm was looking like a real possibility, until at my wits end I came across a recipe in Gordon Ramsay’s Great British Pub Food. ‘Beef cheeks braised in stout with dumplings’.
The cheeks are cut into chunks and braised in a combination of stout and stock for three and a half hours. I decided this was eminently doable. But, what? Beef or Veal stock needed, having none to hand and deciding that in order to do my cheeks justice only the real deal would do. I decided to make my own stock. Running down to the butchers, and purchasing some veal bones I got the stock on. It took bloody hours, but there’s something very satisfying about making a product so useful from inedible bones and a bit of veg.

So, Six hours later and my Veal stock done, I was ready to begin cooking the Ox cheeks for three and half hours. At this point I was starting to think this better be one of the best things I’ve ever made, because its taken nearly a whole day to prepare.

Here’s the recipe:-

Beef cheeks braised in stout with dumplings

Serves 4

You’ll need:-

2 Beef Cheeks, about 500g each
2 TBSP plain flour
Sea salt and black Pepper
2-3 TBSP Olive Oil
1 Large Carrot peeled and chopped
1 Celery Stick, trimmed and chopped
1 Leek, trimmed and chopped
2 Bay Leaves
Few thyme sprigs
1 TBSP tomato puree
1 TBSP brown sugar
300 ML Guinness or other stout
400 ML Quality Beef or Veal stock

125g self-raising flour
125g suet
½ TSP salt
Small handful of mixed herbs, such as parsley, chives and chervil, chopped.
1 heaped TSP creamed horseradish
4-5 TBSP Water

Trim off any excess fat from the cheeks and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Mix the flour with a little salt and pepper and use to lightly coat the beef pieces. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a heavy-based flameproof casserole. Brown the beef in batches for 4-6 mins, turning to colour evenly, then remove to a plate.

Drizzle a little more oil into the pan and add the vegetables, along with the bay leaves and thyme. Stir in the tomato puree and sugar.
Cook, stirring frequently, over a high heat for 6-8 mins until the vegetables begin to soften and colour.

Pour in the stout and let bubble for 5-10 mins until reduced by about half. Return the meat to the pan. Add the stock to cover the meat and vegetables. Season well, bring to the boil and put the lid on.
Simmer gently for 3-3 ½ hours until the beef is just tender, stirring every once in a while. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Meanwhile, to make the dumplings, put the flour, suet, salt and a good pinch of pepper into a large bowl. Mix well, then stir in the chopped herbs. Make a well in the centre and add the creamed horseradish and 4 TBSP of water. Mix to a firm dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl cleanly. If it is a bit dry, add a little more water. Turn the dough out onto a clean board and sprinkle over some flour. Roll the dough out into a sausage shape, then divide into 8 balls.

Carefully drop the dumplings into the stew, spacing them apart to allow for them to double in size during cooking. Replace the lid and cook for a further 20-30 mins until the dumplings have puffed up and are light and fluffy. Serve with seasonal vegetables.

So, after Ten hours of faffing about making veal stock and then slow cooking the ox cheeks in stout…. was it any good?

Although I ended up eating dinner at 9pm, It was bloody gorgeous. Stupendously good. In fact, one of the best things I’ve ever cooked. The meat was melt in the mouth tender, falling to pieces at merest touch of the fork. It tasted incredible. The surrounding stout stew was dark, rich and tasty, and the herb and horseradish dumplings were a revelation. So light, and so distinctly flavoured, they were the perfect accompaniment to the Ox cheeks. I’ll definitely be making these again to use in other stews.

So, my verdict on ox cheeks, if you’ve never tried them then you’re missing out. £3 for two cheeks to cook a dinner for four is making out like a bandit! Seriously good value for money, and seriously tasty. So, if you see them - snap them up!


William Leigh said...

beautiful stuff mate

Unknown said...

Dan it looks amazing - I have a horrible tendency to only read recipes at last minute as well and then go - oh no, marinate overnight, oh well an hour in the fridge with cling film over will do!

Anonymous said...

Please make a joke about the other type of cheek. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful stuff - your effort was clearly rewarded, and you're blessed to have a good butcher so close by. Not that I wish an extended cold spell on anyone, but this sticky, rich bone-soothing stew is perfect hibernation food. Will be giving it a try this weekend, with whatever offal I can get hold of.

Kavey said...

Oooh now see I wouldn't normally do a Gordon recipe, having actually thrown away a shockingly large amount of meat, so far beyond salvaging was it, after laboriously following one of his recipes...

BUT with the Essex Eating stamp of T&T approval, I shall give it a go with the cheeks I still have in my freezer.

George@CulinaryTravels said...

Looks fabulous Dan. I have beef cheeks on order from my butcher this weekend - happen this might be on the menu.

Anonymous said...

Excellent! Love putting the reveal after the recipe as well, nice suspense!

Never cooked with cheeks. Might grab some just for this. One Q: was the liquor excessively stout-tasting? I'm not fond of the flavour. I would possibly use red wine instead.

Dan said...

William - Thanks very much dude.

Gourmet Chick - Ha! I do exactly the same thing, Ive been caught out loads of times like that.

Sasasunakku - Let me think about it and see if I can work an arse joke in somewhere.

Laura - Thanks. I actually got the beef cheeks from Waitrose, I've had trouble sourcing them from my local butcher. But totally agree, when the weathers a bit colder something like this is ideal.

Kavey - Hahaha I too have had mixed results with Gordon Ramsay recipes (Orange-Lemon tart anyone?) But this one worked beautifully, a real cracker. Be interested to hear how it turns out if you make it Kavey.

George - Thanks and likewise, would love to know what you think if you make it.

RoastPotato - The liquor was lovely - it didn't taste strongly of stout (which Im also not overly fond of) it was a just slightly sweet, and tasted very richly of the beef. Gorgeous stuff.

Graphic Foodie said...

Amazing. Will look out for these next time I'm in Waitrose and I'll give this a go - right back at ya!

The Shed said...

I was drooling over this at 3am this morning but was too zombiefied to post actual words. This. Looks. Amazing!

I'm basically turning into your culinary stalker (wild garlic soup, pig cheeks, and now this). Stop before I get gouty.

Anonymous said...

I'm already starving ... and it is only 10.00am!

Dan said...

Fran - Ha, if you see them in Waitrose - buy! buy! buy! oh and let me know what you think.

The Shed - hahaha Thanks very much. I'm drooling over this as well, I haven't eaten breakfast yet and all I can think about is beef cheek stew with dumplings.
If you get gouty - take consolation from the fact that it'll be me that gets it first!

Mathilde - Likewise!!

Niamh said...

This looks great, Dan! Ox cheeks, pork cheeks - yum! Homemade veal stock. Swoon.

Tom said...

That looks tasty. I've just got back from the Ginger Pig with two of em in my bag. And so cheap. Awesome.

Dan said...

Niamh - Thanks very much!

Tom - Fantastic....I just bought two more as well, at around £3 you cant go wrong!

Janet said...

I was concerned the weather may not be cold enough for such a hearty meal and then I saw the snow when I crawled out of bed... Had the cheeks in the bottom of the freezer bought reduced in waitrose and added a kilo of stewing steak with double the ingredients. Unfortunately couldn't fit double the dumplings but they would have gone were I able to. All in all, amazingly simple and amazingly tasty! Congratulations

Dan said...

Janet - Really pleased you enjoyed this. I can think of nothing I'd rather eat more while it's snowing outside. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Unknown said...

Amazing recipe, I have made it 4 times now, I add a few anchovies in for an extra tang and the last time I added 2 large oxtail pieces also!