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Slow braised ox cheeks

January 25, 2013

Before I opened a restaurant braised lamb shanks were up there in my top 5 dishes. Deliberately did not cook them at work in case I got tired of them. Then I missed cooking and eating them so we put them on as a special one weekend and it became a customer favourite so they went on the menu and sure enough I got tired of them so went on the hunt for an alternative.

Lamb shanks are relatively inexpensive and with care and slow cooking they can rival some of the more expensive cuts they are also really easy to prepare. I watch a lot of cookery programmes and read a lot of recipes and in a few different places I saw beef cheeks and thought I would give it a go. After a little trial and error here is what I came up with. This is one of those recipes that is not an exact science. You can play around with flavours here and really impress your family and friends.

Because this is not a well sought after cut you are going to have to search for the cheeks, seriously, it will be well worth the hunt. If there is a farmers market near you go and talk to some of the farmers and ask if they have it or if they can get them.

4-6 beef/ox cheeks
2 medium onion
3 carrots
3-4 stalks of celery
3 cloves garlic
half bottle red wine
2 tins chopped tomatoes
tomato paste
beef stock
3 bay leaves

Put the oven on a moderate heat and get a casserole dish ready. Chop up the vegetables to a medium dice. Rinse off the cheeks and pat them dry with paper towel. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in the casserole and brown off the cheek. take your time here and get some good colour on them. When they are all browned set aside and add a little more oil and ad veg and garlic, cook these for about 5 mins then add the tomato paste and cook for a minute or two. de glaze the pot with red wine then add tinned tomatoes, stock and bay leaf. Return the cheeks to the pot, add enough stock to nearly cover the cheeks,  cover and put in the oven. Check on them every hour or so for at least 5 hours, turning them over each time.

You will know when they are done, they will start to fall apart when you try to pick one up with tongs. if you pull at it with tongs and it does not pull apart easily, put it back in the oven for another while. When they are cooked, remove the cheeks and set aside, strain the liquid and reduce until glossy. You can simply serve them on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with glazed carrots, or with polenta the options are only limited to your imagination.

You can also treat the cheeks in different ways, you can cook it in the same style as beef bourguignon and try introducing other flavours; star anise and orange zest work really well. Give it a try as i said, it is well worth the effort. Let me know how you get on.

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