Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Porter Braised Beef Cheeks

My poor camera skills really haven't done this dish justice. I have eaten A LOT of cow in my life, but I think this was probably the tastiest piece I have had. The combination of porter, winter vegetables, herbs, 24 hour marinade time and 10 hours of cooking produced a lump of meat that was so full of flavour, soft and rich. Following the success of our Oxtail Pie, we decided to go to the other end of the animal and try to make something special out of the cheeks. In the same way that the oxtail needs very long and slow-cooking, likewise the cheeks also need similar preparation to be made palatable. Although this recipe does take a long time, nearly all of the time is either the meat marinading in the fridge, or cooking in the oven. So we urge you to give this one a go because it is delicious.
If we were going down the French route, the marinade for this would have a red wine. But for this dish we again opted for beer, more specifically porter. For those who haven't tried this style of beer, you should give it a go. It's a dark beer which is most similar to a stout. Its origins are in London where porters would drink this beer at lunch. It used to be a combination of beers - basically they would add cheaper ales to more expensive and richer beers to bulk them out for the workers of the industrial revolution. Anyway, I digress. The modern porter beer has so many variations but it should be dark and malty and usually has chocolate undertones. It is this chocolate taste that we wanted to blend into the beef cheeks. To make sure we achieved this, we opted for a beer called the "Triple Chocoholic" by Saltaire Brewery.

The rest of the ingredients are all fairly common and familiar. As I said earlier, this is not a difficult dish to make, but the attention to details will make all the difference.

For two people -


2 beef cheeks - (ask your butcher to prepare and trim them for you)
500ml porter ale
1 onion - quartered
3 carrots - cut into large chunks
4 cloves garlic
10 juniper berries - crushed
4 sprigs thyme
10 black peppercorns
coarse salt


1. Place all the ingredients into a large bowl, cover with cling film and place in the fridge over night.

2. When ready to cook, strain the solids from the marinade but make sure you reserve the liquid.

3. Place your large oven proof dish/pan on a high heat and add a little oil. When smoking hot place the beef cheeks in the oil and fry until brown.

4. Take out the meat, lower the heat a little and then throw in the onion and carrots. Then add the garlic and all the other seasoning. Return the cheeks to the pan then cover with the liquid. It should just cover the meat, but if it doesnt then just add a little water.

5. Bring this to the boil and then cover with a lid and place in an oven at 120C for about 8 hours.

6. After 8 hours, remove the cheeks from the pan. Then, using a potato masher, mash the carrots and onion in the liquid. Boil this over a high heat for a few minutes. Then strain the liquid to remove all the solids.

7. Place the strained liquid back on the heat and reduce to the desired thickness for your gravy. If it does not thicken enough, then mix a little cornflour with some water and gradually stir this into your gravy.

8. Serve with a big pile of mashed potatoes and winter vegetables.

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