Braised ox cheeks

by James Ramsden
Braised ox cheeks

Braised ox cheeks

  • Main
  • easy
  • 4
  • 3 hours 15 minutes, plus marinading time (1-24 hours)

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 purée and a few greens.

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
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 160°C/gas mark 3
Remove the cheeks from the marinade and pat dry thoroughly. 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 heat, 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 saucepan 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 bottom of 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 purée 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 needed