This rich and warming stew is perfect for special night in with a glass of vintage Shiraz. It oozes decadency and you could totally bring it to one of Marie Antoinette’s dinner parties. The recipe is not difficult but is best prepared on the weekend when you have plenty of time to supervise the braising process.
Let’s talk about beef cheeks! The name ‘beef cheek’ refers to the facial cheek muscle of a cow. It’s a rather tough and lean cut of meat which requires a slow cooking method. But, it’s also a bit magical, because given enough cooking time, it transforms into the most gorgeous, gelatinous, velvety, tender meat full of depth and flavour. For this recipe I used beef cheeks from one of my faves, Cape Grim Beef. It’s advisable to pre-order beef cheeks from your butcher. Otherwise, if you can’t find any cheeks, something like beef brisket can also be used.
I used port instead of just red wine because the darker fortified wines add much more depth to the dish, plus I wanted some sweetness to go with vanilla. This dish is a little sweet, but don’t worry – once you add up the total sugars (glucose and fructose from the port, vegetables, and tomato paste), you’ll be coming in at around 5-6 grams per person. Not to bad for something this magical.
- 4 beef cheeks (about 1.2 kg), cut in half, sinew removed (ask your butcher to do this)
- sea salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoon coconut oil for frying
- ⅔ cup of port (Sherry can also be used)
- 1 tablespoon butter or ghee
- 1 large white onion, sliced
- 4 large garlic cloves, roughly diced
- 4-5 cardamon pods (optional)
- 1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar (red wine vinegar can also be used)
- 3 bay leaves
- 6 cloves (or ¼ teaspoon of ground clove spice, cinnamon could also be used)
- 1-2 vanilla beans (depending on size), split
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1½ tablespoons tomato paste
- 450 ml / about 2 cups beef stock
- 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
- Preheat the oven to 150C.
- Season the beef cheeks with salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan with coconut oil over high heat, brown the cheeks on each side for about a minute and place in a heavy-based casserole dish.
- Deglaze the frying pan with port, then add the onion, garlic, butter, cardamon seeds, vinegar, bay leaves, cloves, vanilla beans, pepper, tomato paste, and beef stock. Mix through and bring to simmer, then carefully pour over the beef cheeks in the casserole dish.
- Assemble the beef cheeks so they don't overlap and the garlic and onion are distributed evenly. Cover with foil and place the casserole in the oven. Cook covered for around 3 hours 15 minutes, turning beef cheeks frequently, every 20-25 minutes.
- Then remove the foil, add the carrots and cook uncovered for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Make sure to keep turning the beef cheeks as they will start to brown and dry up on the top. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed but there should be loads given the beef stock is reduced.
- Serve with a side of greens sautéed in olive oil and garlic and some fresh green herbs on top.
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