Monday, 20 October 2008

How to cook ox cheek

I finally managed to track down some ox cheek, not from Waitrose which has so far failed to stock it locally despite a barrage of publicity a couple of weeks ago, but in my local butcher Sheepdrove. They’d obviously responded to the Waitrose offal initiative: an assistant told me they’d never sold ox cheek as a separate cut up to now - it just got chucked in with the mince - but they’d had several requests for it.

I bought 485g for just £2.52 which is amazing for organic beef but found I ended up with quite a bit less once I’d trimmed off all the connective tissue of which it has rather more than the average braising cut. Then we invited a couple of friends to supper so I had to make it stretch for four - in the time-honoured frugal way by cutting the meat up small, making a lot of sauce and serving extra vegetables.

Ox cheek needs long slow cooking which is fine with me, at the end of which it has a meltingly tender texture. I cooked it with a rich dark beer which worked really well though you could equally well cook it daube-style with leftover wine. Or simply with beef stock. I also added a dollop of fig chutney which was rather nice (you need a touch of sweetness when you’re cooking with beer) and a counter-balancing dash of acidity in the form of a spoonful of malt vinegar.

The end result was delicious, every bit as good as a stew made with a more expensive cut. Hopefully ox cheek will remain a bargain but somehow I doubt it . . .

Ox cheek and Old Peculier stew
Serves 4
450-500g ox cheek
2-3 tbsp cooking oil
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp ground allspice or mixed spice
1 1/2 tbsp plain flour
A bayleaf (if you have one)
300 ml beef stock or stock made with 1 tsp Bovril or half a beef stock cube
150 ml Theakston’s Old Peculier or other full-bodied ale, porter or stout
1 tbsp fig relish (I used Tracklements) or date chutney or malt extract or dark brown sugar
1-2 tbsp malt vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 140°C/275°F/Gas 1. Cut the beef into small cubes, carefully removing any large bits of sinew or connective tissue (there’s quite a lot so just take out anything you think looks tough). Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the cubes quickly until lightly browned and transfer to a casserole. In the same oil cook the onion until starting to soften then add the carrots and cook for a few minutes more. Stir in the allspice and flour then add the stock and beer and gradually bring to the boil. Stir in the chutney and 1 tablespoon of the vinegar, add the bayleaf if you have one then put a lid on the casserole and cook in a low oven for about 2 1/2 -3 hours until the meat is tender (slightly less if you’re going to cool and reheat it). Check and stir the stew from time to time, turning the heat down a setting if it seems to be cooking too fast and half-opening the lid if the sauce needs reducing. When the meat is cooked check the seasoning, adding a little more vinegar if you think it needs it and an extra splash of beer to taste. I served this with a tray of roast sweet potatoes, onions and carrots and wedges of steamed Savoy cabbage but it would also be great with baked or boiled potatoes.


Anonymous said...

Great - I did get my cheeks at Waitrose and now I have a great idea of how to start.. Frugal being a watch word I am going to add pearl barly too.

David Sumner said...

Two points - don't remove all the connective tissue, the whole point of ox cheeks and slow cooking is all the fat and gristle and other "nasty" stuff breaks down and becomes delicious and velvety. Also leave it in big chunks as cutting it up small tends to dry it out.

Anonymous said...

I followed this receipe, agreeing with David Sumner that you need to leave the fat in and cut the meat into big chunks (for the reasons he stated). I also sweated down finely chopped celary with the onions and most importantly added one garlic clove per 100gr of meat. I think this adds an extra savoury note.

gerry said...

I bought ox cheeks from Waitrose and didn't remove anything from them, just cut them up and used the lot. The dish was utterly delish. I posted the recipe on Waitrose forum, the "Cooking" one, though I'd intended it to go on "Forgotten Cuts" forum.

Anonymous said...

I also have ox cheek from Waitrose, along with a local farmers oxtail.
Old Perculiar is the best beer for cooking. Better than Guiness, thats for sure.
Hughes Meat book is very helpfull for all things meat. My stew results are now amazing.
Check out Farmer Sharpe if you are lucky enough to be at Borough market (all red meat).
End of stew risotto is prety wow, if you have enough left.

SD classroom said...

In my class we are reading Benjamin Franklins autobiography. I says he was given a dinner of oxcheek. The class and I were wondering, what is oxcheek? Can anyone help?

Anonymous said...

In my class we are reading Benjamin Franklins autobiography. I says he was given a dinner of oxcheek. The class and I were wondering, what is oxcheek? Can anyone help?

Seriously??? are you fucking stupid? What is ox cheek?? Have 1 guess, please.

Paul said...

Fiona. I bought ox cheek almost by accident. I had never heard of it and I wanted venison as this is the normal red meaat that I use. I was v surprised at the result. The Waitrose man was very helpful and answered my questions. I slow-cooked it in red wine and a concoction of fresh rosemary, oregano, parsely etc... I used a whole tin of tomatoes. My piece was a surprising £1.91 (about £4.95 p/kg) but I had to do a lot of trimming. Even so, one of the best kept secrets until, at least, the celebrity chefs start using it!

loveandtheplanet said...

As mentioned by others, there is no need to remove the tendons and connective tissue. In fact, ox cheeks cook a little bit more quickly than beef brisket (an hour and a half simmering works fine) and the result is quite unbelievably tender, but nearly as tasty as brisket

Suzzie said...

Bought my ox cheek from my butcher. I did take the time to remove all connective tissue and fat. Cooked it for 4ish hour and it was tender and very tasty.

katom said...

i work in tescos and we sell ox cheek on the bucthers counter

Anonymous said...

Don't remove the connective tissue!! It dissolves away during the cooking and is what makes the stock really unctuous.

jakey boylan said...

i bought some at tesco (£6.00 kilo)i used it to make steak and kidney pudding my 5 guests complimented me on it just cut it inbig chunks leave connective tissue on tastes like top class steak.