If I'm planning to cook a slow cooked dish then beef cheeks will instantly spring into my mind. If you're looking to cook beef for hours and hours then beef cheeks should be your number one choice. The beauty of this beef is that you can leave it bubbling away in the slow cooker or on the side of the stove to slowly cook away into melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
When you're buying beef for this dish make sure you ask your butcher to tell you all about the meat that you're buying, ask him what it is and the story about where it has come from. It's great to take the time to talk to your producers and get to know them. I pride myself on using local and sustainable Scottish produce in my dishes and love hearing all about the journey that the meat has taken to arrive on my plate.
Slow cooked dishes really come into their prime if you like cooking dishes that don't need much preparation on the day. I'll often serve a dish that everyone can enjoy without much manipulation in the kitchen, 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.
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.
Beef cheeks Marengo - 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
1 Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. When 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.
2 Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Peel and prepare all of your vegetables, 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.
3 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 and then add the onions, shallots and carrots and sweat them gently for 15 minutes.
4 Pour off any excess fat and deglaze the pot by pouring in the white wine, the beef bouillon and stock. Bring to the boil.
5 When 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.
6 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.
7 Finally, add a knob of butter and stir your sauce until the butter has melted, taste again, sprinkle chopped parsley over it and serve.