Let’s all eat more ox cheek

These are the ox cheek recipes from the cookery demonstration I did with Liz Knight of Forage Fine Foods at Fortnum & Mason on Saturday 26th January.

 

 

WHY WE SHOULD ALL BE EATING OX CHEEK

The tastiest cuts of meat are nearly always the ones that worked the hardest on the animal. Melt-in-the-mouth fillet steak didn’t have to move a muscle and consequently it wins hands down for texture but not necessarily for flavour…and at around £35 per kilo (sometimes considerably more), you have to really love that texture.

By comparison, ox cheeks have their work cut out so they’re tough, a bit gristly and often overlooked. However, when they’re cooked well they are delectably, meltingly, fall-apart delicious and bursting with flavour. Aside from cutting away excess fat on the outside of the cheeks, you don’t even have to worry that much about trimming them because any sinewy bits that look rather unpalatable before cooking simply melt away to make a rich, gelatinous (in a good way) sauce. At around £5 per kilo, ox cheeks are fabulously good value. I’ve found that most butchers sell them (although you may have to order them) as do Waitrose.

Whenever I’m cooking something that takes several hours in the oven, I like to make sure I’m cooking enough of it to make it worthwhile. That’s why I always make big batches of things like oven-dried tomatoes, duck confit or braised meat as they’re all things that either last a long time in the fridge or freeze well.

With ox cheeks, I normally cook four at a time (they weigh around 500g each). I start off by making 1.) a delicious, rich casserole, which is fabulous served with some wild herb dumplings and creamy horseradish mash. I sometimes put some of the casserole aside to make 2.) hot water crust pies (more on that soon in a separate blog) and, if there are any leftovers, I use them to make 3.) a ragu, which is sensational ladled over tagliatelle with freshly grated Parmesan and a crisp green salad.

So, to start with, here is the basic casserole recipe. I’ve based it on two ox cheeks but you can easily add more if you are feeding more people or you anticipate wanting leftovers. This recipe also works well with oxtail (use about 2kg).

OX CHEEK CASSEROLE

Serves 4

2 ox cheeks (about 1kg in total) cut into large chunks
mild oil (olive, rapeseed or sunflower) for frying
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
1 stick of celery, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp tomato puree
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
2 bay leaves
300ml dark ale
450ml beef stock
seasoning

• Heat the oven to 160C / Gas mark 3
• Heat 1 tbsp oil in an ovenproof pan or casserole over a medium high heat and brown the meat all over – in batches if necessary – then take out and set aside.  (Don’t rush the browning stage as well-browned meat will make the casserole much tastier and a darker, richer colour)
• Add the onions, celery and garlic (with a little more oil if needed) and cook over a medium heat for a few minutes until starting to soften
• Return the meat to the pan, add the tomato puree, thyme, bay leaves, dark ale, beef stock and seasoning
• Bring to a simmer then cover with a tightly fitting lid and put in the oven for 2 ½ - 3 hours until the meat is extremely tender. If you’re adding dumplings (see below for the recipe), drop them into the casserole for the last 30 minutes of cooking
• Remove the bay leaves and check the seasoning. The casserole is now ready to serve

The casserole will look very liquidy to start with – but don’t worry because it will thicken beautifully as the ox cheeks cook and you’ll end up with a delicious, rich gravy which is perfect with dumplings and mashed potatoes. I sometimes add wholegrain mustard or horseradish to the mashed potatoes – and this recipe goes perfectly with braised red cabbage too. 

WILD HERB DUMPLINGS

150g self-raising flour
75g shredded suet
a pinch of salt
2 tsp Forage Fine Foods wild herb rub
5 tbsp cold water

• Mix together the flour and the suet with a pinch of salt and two teaspoons of wild herb rub – I can heartily recommend Forage Fine Foods Wild Herb Rub (alternatively you can use your preferred choice of finely chopped fresh herbs / flavours e.g. rosemary, thyme, sage, wild garlic, freshly grated horseradish etc.)
• Add the cold water bit by bit and stir – if the dough is still a little dry, add more water until the mixture just comes together
• Roll into walnut-sized balls and drop into the casserole for the last 30 minutes of cooking

OX CHEEK RAGU 

Serves 4

2 ox cheeks (about 1kg in total) cut into large chunks
mild oil (olive, rapeseed or sunflower) for frying
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
300ml red wine
400g chopped tomatoes
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only

For serving

fresh basil leaves
300g tagliatelle
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
crisp, green salad

• Heat the oven to 160C / Gas mark 3
• Heat 1 tbsp oil in an ovenproof pan or casserole over a medium high heat and brown the meat all over
• Add the onions and garlic and cook over a medium heat for a few minutes until starting to soften
• Return the meat to the pan, add the tomato puree, chilli flakes, red wine, chopped tomatoes and thyme
• Bring to a simmer then cover with a tightly fitting lid and put in the oven for about 3 hours until the meat is extremely tender and starting to fall apart. Remove from the oven and, with a fork, break up any pieces of meat that are still in tact so they mix into the sauce. Season to taste
• Cook the tagliatelle until al dente, strain and divide between four bowls
• Spoon some of the ox cheek ragu onto the pasta and mix it in a little, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan and torn, fresh basil leaves and serve with a crisp, green salad

With thanks to John Davidsons Butcher for the photo of the ox cheeks – www.johndavidsons.com

2 comments on “Let’s all eat more ox cheek

  1. Hi I made the ox cheek casserole It was lovely. I still have a pot full left. It has been in the fridge since mon 11/2/2013. Will it still be ok to reheat. The sauce is really thick now

    • kathmar on said:

      Hi Lesley, thanks very much for your comment. So glad you liked the ox cheek recipe! Now, about the reheat. This is a tricky one. In a professional setting, I would only keep a casserole in the fridge for 2 days – it would either have to be consumed, frozen or discarded within that time. I keep things for longer in my own kitchen but would normally eat within 3-4 days. Your casserole is right on the limit but if it was cooked on Monday evening then cooled & chilled straight away and had been in a cold fridge since then, I personally would eat it…ensuring that it was piping hot all the way through. Hope that helps!! K

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