I read somewhere recently that beef cheeks are the new lamb shanks! There was a time when lamb shanks were inexpensive and considered to be a great family meal, however when they become popular gusto-pub food a number of years back the price went through the roof. While still delicious and a great family meal unless you find them on special they are now more often a special occasion dish than an everyday one.
Lamb shanks and beef cheeks both come from hard working parts of the animal and as such require long slow cooking. As the name
implies beef cheeks are just that – the facial cheek muscle of a cow – a very tough and lean cut of meat, that requires long slow cooking for a tender result but when cooked correctly they are meltingly tender and delicious.
The beef cheeks I buy are usually sold two to four to a pack and weigh about 800g in total – that’s enough to feed six. While I haven’t seen beef cheeks in the supermarket (yet) they are readily available at good butchers and here in Hawke’s Bay can often be found at the Hastings Mad Butcher.
This recipe is loosely based on one by British and Gordon Ramsay-trained chef Angela Hartnett. She currently runs and owns London restaurant Murano which she opened with Gordon Ramsay in 2008.
In this recipe I have used a cartouche which is simply a paper lid – you often see them used by TV chefs. Using a cartouche rather than a lid allows for more evaporation (reduction) of the cooking liquid but less than if no cover was used at all. Making a cartouche is simple and instructions are given below – you could of course just use the lid of your dish if you wish.
Beef Cheeks Braised in Red Wine
I like to cook this in the oven but you could simmer it on the stove top over a low heat if you prefer – I find cooking in the oven gives a gentler, more even cook that requires less attention.
If at the end of the cooking time if there is still a lot of liquid, remove the meat from the sauce and place the dish over a high heat, bring to the boil and boil until sauce reduces and thickens. Return meat to sauce and cook in oven for 15 minutes longer to heat through.
When cooking in the oven there is not as much as evaporation as when cooking on the stove top and because there needs to be enough liquid to cover the meat this step maybe necessary to achieve a dish with a thick sauce – I prefer to use this reduction method rather than thicken with flour or cornflour as it gives a better flavour.
2-3 (about 800g) beef cheeks
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium (about 150g) carrot, sliced
1 large (about 200g) onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1 stick celery, sliced
1 leek, sliced
2 bay leaves
1 sprig rosemary
12 black peppercorns
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 cup red wine
3 cups chicken stock
1 Preheat oven to 150°C. Using a piece of greaseproof or
baking paper make a cartouche to fit you dish – see instructions
2 Trim the beef cheeks, removing as much sinew as possible and cut each cheek in two or three large pieces. Season with salt. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a heavy-based flameproof casserole dish over a high heat, add beef cheeks and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside.
3 Remove pan from heat and deglaze with a little of the stock. Pour off pan juices and reserve. Add remaining oil, vegetables, garlic, bay leaves and rosemary to pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until vegetables start to soften. Add tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes longer.
4 Add red wine and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until wine reduces.
5 Return beef cheeks and deglazed pan juices to dish, pour over stock, bring to the boil, cover top of mixture with your
cartouche. Transfer dish to the oven and bake for 2½-3 hours or
until meat is very tender. Just prior to serving check seasoning and adjust accordingly.
Serving suggestion: Serve with creamy polenta or mashed potatoes and a steamed green vegetable of your choice.
To make a cartouche: Tear off a piece of greaseproof or baking
paper large enough to cover the dish you are using. Fold the piece of paper into quarters. Then take the folded corner and fold across to form a triangle then fold across again. Place the tip of the triangle at the centre of you dish and tear or cut the opposite end at the edge of the dish. Cut off the tip of the triangle – this makes a hole for steam to escape. Now unfold and you have a paper lid the same size as your dish.
Happy cooking and eating,
Recipe by Rachel Blackmore
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