me vs valentine

I’m trying to cook my way through some cook books that are sitting on my shelf – Valentine Warner’s, The Good Table being one.

VW has a recipe for braised ox cheek. Having made ox cheek stew for the first time a few weeks back (by a recipe of my own invention) I was interested to see how this recipe compared. Unfortunately I cannot replicate the recipe here (copyright rules etc.) but what I can say was that the verdict was mixed. Valentine’s recipe gave up a richer, deeper flavour to the stew – something that TC thought was delicious. For me, I found it too heavy, too hearty and preferred my own concoction, finding it more palatable in its stewy lightness. Each to their own though I guess, so no clear winner – this time! Anyway, here it is, prior to being eaten with a chunk of bread.

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ox cheek stew

I recently met with my friend DB (of Old Luxters Barn wedding fame – ref a previous posting) who was raving about benefits (to the wallet and to the tastebuds) of ox cheek.

From what I have since learnt, the sinewy nature of ox cheek means that it needs to be cooked for a long enough time so as to break the sinews down. So DB’s suggestion was perfect timing really, as well as the recent cold snap we’ve had in the UK, lended itself nicely to creating an ox cheek stew.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the results: warming, hearty and meltingly good.

There are several dishes that I avoid due to being put off them at a young age (school has a lot to answer for!) with stew being one of them – however, this dish has turned the worm (maybe not quite turned for liver, mind you).

Serves 4:

Ingredients:

500g ox cheek (approx) cut into large bite-sized pieces (excess sinew removed)
2 onions, finely sliced
2 carrots, cut into chunks
2 sticks of celery, finely sliced
6 shallots, finely sliced
3 medium sized beetroot, peeled and chopped into large chunks
4 garlic cloves, peeled but not sliced
600ml beef stock
6 sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
½ tablespoon soft dark brown muscavado sugar
½ bottle red wine
can of peeled plum tomatoes
3 bay leaves

Put the cheek into a bowl and pour over the red wine and leave to marinade for at least 4 hours or if possible, up to 24 hours – basically, the longer the better. When this has completed, drain the wine off (but reserve it for later) heat a heavy-bottomed pot on a medium heat, add some oil and start browning off the meat in batches, removing them when browned.

When the meat has been browned, pop all the veggies into the pot to soften (around 10-15 minutes). After this add the wine and the stock and bring to the boil. At this point return the meat to the pot, along with the canned tomatoes, vinegar, sugar and thyme. Add a dash of salt and pepper.

Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and simmer gently for 3-4 hours.

When done (the meat should be gloriously tender and the sinew soft and gelatinous) use a colander to drain separate the juices from the meat and vegetables. Being the liquid to a brisk boil to reduce down and thicken a bit. Serve altogether with some mash potato or crusty bread and a large glass of red.

Best enjoyed when it’s disgustingly cold outside.

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