Beef cheeks Marengo

 

With spring taking its time to appear, I imagine we could all do with a hearty, belly-warming dish to put a smile on our faces.

If I’m planning a slow-cooked dish, beef cheeks instantly spring to my mind. Taken from the cows’ cheek muscle, it’s a very tough cut of meat, however, the good news is, this makes it relatively cheap to buy. The beauty of this beef is that if you leave it bubbling away in the slow cooker, or on the side of the stove, to cook for hours and hours, it turns into tender, melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

It’s amazing what memories are conjured up from the simple smell of a dish, and for me, this takes me all the way back to my childhood. We were well fed, that’s for sure!

To me, learning about where your meat is from is an essential part of the buying process. I want to ensure the animal has been treated well, had quality of life, and that the supplier is reputable. So, when buying your beef, make sure you ask your butcher to tell you its provenance story.

This dish went down a treat with my family and friends when I cooked it last week back home in France. I love getting all my loved ones around one table; talking, eating and drinking. There really is nothing better. Slow cooked dishes like this come into their own for occasions like that as they don’t need much preparation on the day. After all, there is nothing worse than being stuck in the kitchen and missing all of the good times that are happening at the dinner table.

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Ingredients 

Serves 4

  • 4 beef/ox cheeks
  • 50cl beef bouillon
  • 40cl beef demi glace or brown stock
  • 25cl white wine
  • 2 carrots (diced)
  • 2 small onions (diced)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 shallot (diced)
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 4 tbsp. plain flour
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • Vegetable oil or duck fat
  • Sprinkle of fresh chives/parsley or a mixture of both
  • 2 tomatoes (peeled and diced)
  • Coarse sea salt and pepper

Method

1. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Once boiling, plunge your tomatoes in for 20 seconds, remove them and immediately place them in icy water. Peel them, chop them up and remove all of the pips. Peel and prepare all of your vegetables.

2. Preheat your oven to 180°C.

3. Clean the beef cheeks by getting rid of any excess fat and trim them whilst leaving them whole. Season the cheeks with salt and roll them in flour whilst tapping any excess flour off.

4. Heat the oil or duck fat in a large cast iron pan or thick-bottomed pot. When it’s smoking hot, brown the meat evenly until golden, then add the onions, shallots and carrots and sweat them gently for 15 minutes.

5. Pour out any excess fat and deglaze the pot by pouring in the white wine, the beef bouillon and stock. Bring to the boil.

6. Once boiling, add in the bouquet garni, garlic, diced tomatoes and season again with salt and pepper. Cover and cook in the oven for 2 ½ - 3 hours until the meat is tender or when a knife goes into the meat quite easily.

7. Take the pot out of the oven and leave it to rest for 20 minutes. Take the meat out and put it aside. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve pressing all the vegetables to extract all of their juices. Pour the sauce back into the pot to reduce until it thickens. Taste and season then put your meat back into the pot and reheat everything together.

8. Finally, add a knob of butter and stir your sauce until the butter has melted, taste again, sprinkle chopped parsley over it and serve.

One point to remember when you’re cooking this dish is to always do what you feel is right. If I feel that I need to add a bit more of this or a bit less of that then I will - follow your heart and you’ll be surprised with what you’re capable of. That is what cooking is all about, after all, using your feelings and sharing good times with your friends and family.

Bon appétit!

As published on Herald Scotland, 10 April 2018