Winter is coming. In our house it comes with braised meats, stews and soups. What is it about braised meats, falling at the gentle push of the fork into their rich and deep gravy that brings out the home lover in us all? The first beauty of this dish is that it is a cheap cut of meat, the second, that it must be slowly braised over time giving an intense flavour so less faffing, and the third that it can be reheated on the day you need so that it gets hot and you don’t have to. You can serve on the day you cook it, but it’s up to you. I love serving this on potato and parsnip puree and with some wilted spinach. If you don’t use it all, then reheat it pull it apart and serve it soft buns as a pulled beef dish.
For the beef cheeks
- 4 x 375g/13oz beef cheeks (available from traditional butchers), trimmed
- 750ml/1 pint 7fl oz red wine
- 2 carrots, peeled, roughly chopped
- 1 large onion, peeled, quartered
- 4 sticks celery, roughly chopped
- 1 leek, roughly chopped
- 4 garlic cloves
- 4 fresh bay leaves
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 10 black peppercorns
- 1 star anise
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp tomato purée
- 1 tsp plain flour
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Tie the beef with kitchen string to form small parcels.
- Pour the red wine into a large glass or ceramic bowl and add the carrots, onion, celery, leek, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns and star anise. Add the tied beef cheeks, cover and leave to marinate overnight in the fridge.
Day Two (and Three if you wish)
- Heat the oven to 140C/275F/Gas 1.
- Remove the cheeks and the vegetables from the marinade (reserve both). Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan, then add the beef cheeks and cook, turning until nicely browned. Remove and place in a flame-proof casserole dish that has a lid.
- In the same pan in which you seared the meat, add all the vegetables from the marinade and cook over a medium heat until lightly browned. Then add the tomato puree, stir in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Pour in the reserved wine from the marinade scraping all the flour so it thickens. Add the vegetable mixture to the casserole with the meat and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and top up with more red wine or water to just cover the meat and vegetables.
- Heat over a medium-high heat until simmering, cover and place into the oven
and cook for at least six hours. Every hour check the liquid to make sure the
meat is still submerged. I add more wine or beef stock.
- At the end of cooking time, remove the casserole from the oven, remove the lid and leave the lot to cool, then strain the cooled liquid into a clean pan, reserving the liquid but discarding the vegetables.
- Remove the string from the beef cheeks and set aside. Place the cheeks in a saucepan and cover with the sauce. Reserve some of the liquid and in another saucepan reduce by a third to a thick, glossy, rich sauce.
- About 25-30 minutes before serving, reheat the beef cheeks in half of their cooking liquid and keep warm in the oven.
- To serve, place some potato and parsnip puree on a plate, add some beef cheek on each and pour some of the red wine sauce over them. Put on some wilted spinach if you are having some.