This recipe is inspired by American food writer Jennifer McLagan. Her book Odd Bits is essential reading for lovers of meaty bits and pieces. Don't be put off by the length of the recipe – it's really quite straightforward. If you can't buy ox or beef cheeks, use oxtail, beef shoulder or shank instead. Lightly steamed kale, celeriac mash or creamy polenta are perfect accompaniments.
red wine 750ml
onion 1, sliced
carrots 2, sliced
celery stalks with leaves 2, sliced
garlic cloves 4, peeled and halved
fresh bay leaves 2, torn
rosemary 1 large sprig
thyme 3 sprigs
black peppercorns ½ tsp, lightly crushed
ox or beef cheeks 1.4kg (2–3 cheeks) sliced into equal-sized chunks
freshly ground black pepper
beef dripping, lard or vegetable oil 2 tbsp
red wine vinegar 2 tsp
chopped flat-leaf parsley 4 tbsp
1) Gently bubble down the wine in a large saucepan until reduced to about 625ml. Pour into a large shallow dish. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, herbs and crushed peppercorns. Leave to cool completely, then submerge the meat in the marinade. Cover and chill for 5–8 hours, turning once or twice.
2) Remove the meat (don't throw away the marinade). Pat dry thoroughly and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Strain the marinade, decanting the liquid and solids into separate bowls.
3) Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas 2.
4) Heat the fat or oil in a large casserole over medium-high heat. Fry the cheeks in batches until brown, then put them to a bowl.
5) Reduce the heat slightly. Add the vegetables and herbs from the marinade, and fry until soft.
Add the reserved marinade liquid, the cheeks and any juices that have flowed from them. Bring to the boil. Cover tightly with a lid, then cook in the oven for 3–4 hours or until the cheeks are very tender.
6) Lift out the cheeks with a perforated spoon and put them in a bowl. Strain the cooking liquid through a sieve, pressing with the back of a wooden spoon. Blot off any fat with paper towels.
7) Pour the strained liquid back into the casserole. Bubble down until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
8) Add the cheeks and reheat gently. Stir in the vinegar and check the seasoning. Sprinkle with the parsley just before serving.
The cheeks are even tastier the next day. Let them cool completely, then chill. When ready to eat, discard the layer of solidified fat, then slowly bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until the meat is thoroughly heated through.
Recipes © Christine McFadden 2014