Have you ever cooked ox cheeks? Outrageously flavoursome, spectacularly gelatinous, supper club host James shows how they will be the talk of the town, or at least your home, for many years to come.
I am a cheek man. Pig, cow, skate, doesn’t matter to me, its cheeks are the nuggets I most adore. They appeal to my lazy side, being easily portionable and neat, and they appeal to my Yorkshire side, being cheap. A skate’s cheeks are known as knobs, by the way, so if you encounter them on a restaurant menu or in your fishmonger, don’t be alarmed. You won’t be noshing anything priapic. (Milt, on the other hand…)
But I digress. This week it was ox cheeks. In the panoply of meat cuts they are among the finest – outrageously flavoursome, spectacularly gelatinous (and thus most gleefully slow-cooked), and extraordinarily handsome. So handsome you could bung a creepy old man wig and mid-90s rocker beard on one and call him Brad Pitt.
It would be a weird thing to do.
Less weird, more conducive to dinner, is to do the following recipe, which takes about 15 minutes of your time and will be the talk of the town, or at least your home, for many years to come.
Do this a day or two ahead if you like – the flavour will only improve – and serve with mashed potato or, as I did, celeriac and horseradish puree and a few greens.
Braised Ox Cheeks
For the marinade
2 ox cheeks, 1.5-2kg
Half a bottle of red wine
A bay leaf
A few peppercorns
A garlic clove, squished
A dried red chilli
For the braise
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
300ml beef or chicken stock
1 tbsp tomato puree
Salt and pepper
Put the ox cheeks in a bowl with the other marinade ingredients and add a good pinch of salt. Leave for as long as you can – ideally in the fridge for a few days, but an hour is better than nothing
Preheat the oven to 160C. Remove cheeks from marinade and pat thoroughly dry. Heat a drop of oil (if using olive don’t use your best) in a frying pan over a strong flame and brown the cheeks thoroughly, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Transfer to a large saucepan.
Lower the hat in the frying pan. Add the butter and melt, then add the vegetables and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Soften for a few minutes then add to the pan with the ox cheeks.
Tip the marinade into the frying pan along with the stock and bring to a simmer, scraping any sticky bits off the pan. Tip this into the saucepan, cover, and transfer to the oven. Cook for 3-4 hours until tender.
Remove the cheeks from the braising liquor and rest in a bowl. Put the saucepan over a generous heat, add the tomato puree, and simmer to reduce by about a half.
Meanwhile shred the cheeks with a couple of forks. Return to the pan and stir through the reduced broth. Keep warm until ready to serve, or cool and refrigerate until whenever.
Inspired? For more beef recipes visit Great British Chefs collection.
Wow! This was such a simple dish to make but you have to be so patient. So worth it in the end, incredibly tasty! I added some bacon lardons at the same point as the veg which added a bit of smokiness. Will definitely cook again.
26 November 2014
Just made this...amazing, only used 1.1kg ox and cooked for 4 hrs fan oven 140°c. Barely reduced the sauce at the end and still lovely and thick with a perfect meat to sauce ratio. Might try a little star anise in the marinade next time.
9 November 2014
Have to agree, they are indeed "outrageously flavoursome". Simple but fabulous recipe - I added just a little chipotle sauce for an extra bit of 'bite'. Thanks.
7 April 2014
To try this weekend
22 November 2013