Fillet of beef with ox cheek, nettle purée and sauce diable

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Beef fillet is the king of beef cuts, and Mark Dodson certainly does it justice with this rich main course. It takes a bit of work to bring it all together – there's a nettle purée to make, a crispy ox cheek on the side, as well as charred peppers, sweet potato fondant, cavolo nero, blanched asparagus and a sumptuous sauce diable made with red wine, veal stock and herbs. The result, however, is incredible.

First published in 2019




Ox cheek

  • 1 ox cheek
  • 200ml of white wine
  • 1 onion, roughly diced
  • 1 celery stick, roughly diced
  • 1 carrot, roughly diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • olive oil, for cooking
  • 500ml of brown veal stock
  • 100g of flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten and let down with a splash of water
  • 200g of breadcrumbs
  • oil, for deep-frying

Nettle purée

  • 100g of onion
  • 125g of potatoes, peeled
  • 25g of nettle tops
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum, (optional)


Sweet potato fondants

Sauce diable


  • Food processor or blender


Trim the cheek of any excess fat and connective tissue, and place it in a bowl with the wine, vegetables, bay leaf and thyme. Cover and leave in the fridge to marinate overnight
The following day, lift out the cheek and vegetables and pat them dry. Pour the liquor into a saucepan and bring to the boil, skimming off any impurities. Pass through a fine sieve
Season and the cheek all over, the sear in a hot frying pan with a dash of oil until coloured all over. Transfer into a large saucepan. Fry the vegetables in the same frying pan, then add to the saucepan along with the cheek. Pour in the strained marinade, bring to the boil, then add the veal stock. Bring to the boil again, then reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer and leave it to cook, covered, for up to 5 hours. Make sure the pan doesn't get too dry – add a drop of water if necessary
  • olive oil, for cooking
  • 500ml of brown veal stock
Once cooked the cheek should be soft to the touch but not falling apart. Remove the cheek (reserving the liquid for later), place it between sheets of cling film onto a clean tray and press down with a weight. Refrigerate overnight
The next day, trim the cheek and cut into 4 even strips. Coat each strip in seasoned flour, then in egg, and finally in breadcrumbs. Set aside until ready to cook later
  • 100g of flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten and let down with a splash of water
  • 200g of breadcrumbs
Pass the reserved liquid, discarding the vegetables, and reduce over a high heat to 200ml – this will be the base for the sauce diable
To make the nettle purée, boil the onion and potato in lightly salted water until soft. Blanch the nettles in the same water for 1 minute, then refresh in iced water. Blend the onion and potato in a blender (add a bit of cooking water if necessary), then add the nettles. If the purée is a bit thin, you can use the xanthan gum to thicken it a little. Pass through a fine sieve into a bowl over ice and season. Reserve for later
  • 100g of onion
  • 125g of potatoes, peeled
  • 25g of nettle tops
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum, (optional)
Preheat an oven to 160ºC/gas mark 2. Remove the stalks of the peppers, cut in half and remove the seeds. Place onto a tray, season and moisten with a little olive oil, cover tightly with tin foil to create some steam and place into the oven. After about 45 minutes you should be able to peel the skin away from the peppers. Once skinned, cut them into long strips about half a centimetre wide and reserve for later
Use a turning knife to peel and shape the sweet potatoes into ovals, around 6cm in length. Place them in a single layer in a suitable pan, cover with the water and add a pinch of salt and the butter. Bring to a simmer and cook until the water has evaporated – the butter will help to colour the potatoes. Once cooked, remove the potatoes and reserve for later
To make the sauce, place the red wine vinegar, white wine, white pepper, shallot and tarragon in a pan and heat until reduced to a thick syrup consistency. When almost dry, add the reserved and reduced 200ml of cooking liquor. Remove the tarragon and reduce to a thin sauce consistency. Pass through a fine sieve, season and reserve for later
Bring a small pan of oil up to 170ºC, and carefully deep-fry the breadcrumbed ox cheek strips until golden brown in colour. Drain on a sheet of kitchen paper and keep warm
  • oil, for deep-frying
Season the fillet steaks all over. Place a frying pan over a very high heat and, once hot, sear the steaks on both sides. Reduce the heat and cook for another 3 minutes on each side, then remove from the pan and set aside to rest
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Blanch the asparagus and grelot onions for one minute, then add the cavolo nero and cook for 2 more minutes. Drain and and toss in melted butter
Add the sweet potatoes to the frying pan and reheat them gently. Meanwhile, reheat the nettle purée in a separate pan. Reheat the ox cheek in the oven if necessary, and warm the sauce on the hob
To serve, divide the cavolo nero between 4 warmed plates. Place the fillet steak on top, then the potato fondant alongside. Put the breaded ox cheek on top of the potato and drape with slices of pepper. Add a spoonful of the nettle puree and use a spoon to swoop it across the plate, then arrange the asparagus and grelot onion on top. Finish with the sauce diable and serve

Mark Dodson speaks the language of comfort food with Shakespearean fluency, turning perfectly formed elements into down-to-earth (but heavenly) compositions.

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