There are moments when you need to serve something special and distractingly delicious to accompany the BIG NEWS you’re about to drop, especially when you’re not too sure how the news will be swallowed...
For example: “Listen up, family. I’ve resigned from my (secure, well paid and respected) job and booked a one way ticket to Europe. I don’t have a set plan and I don’t know when I’ll return. I’m so excited!”
The perfect accompaniment to such an announcement? The beef cheek, naturally. When nestled in a pot with garlic and thyme, and cooked for hours in a sea of Pedro Ximenez Sherry to the point it pulls apart and breaks easily with a spoon, it’s sure to deflect the attention from your questionable life choice and back onto the plate. Cue a barrage of enquiries as to your slow cooking techniques, rather than your vaccination status.
1.5 kg beef cheeks
125 ml olive oil
3 carrots, roughly chopped
1 garlic bulb, halved
1 brown onion, sliced
500 ml Pedro Ximenez Sherry
500 ml red wine
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt
3 parsnips, peeled
3 potatoes, peeled
One large hunk of butter
A good slug of cream (or milk if you’re feeling less indulgent)
Trim the beef cheeks to neaten them up and remove any new sinew and silver skin. Season well.
Heat half the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Brown the beef cheeks for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden, then remove from the pan.
Add the remaining olive oil, then add the carrot, garlic, onion and saute over high heat for 12 to 15 minutes, or until well browned. Stir in the sherry, wine, bay leaves, thyme, sea salt and 500 ml water. Reduce the heat to as low as possible, add the beef cheeks, then cover and cook for 3 to 4 hours, or until the cheeks are beginning to fall apart. (You could also pop them in the slow cooker for 6 hours on low).
Meanwhile, place the parsnips and potatoes in a pot and cover with salted water. Cook until cooked through, drain and return to the pan. Mash away, adding whatever quantities of butter and cream you choose. Season to taste.
The sauce from the beef cheeks should by now be reduced and glaze-like. It if needs further reducing, remove the cheeks from the pan, cover with foil to keep them warm, and simmer the sauce over high heat until nicely reduced. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve and return to the pan; gently reheat the cheeks in the sauce if necessary.
Serve the cheeks and their sauce on warm plates with the cauliflower puree. A green salad, dressed with vinaigrette made from olive oil, mustard and sherry vinegar, is a well-suited side.
The recipe is adapted from MoVida Rustica by Frank Camorra and Richard Cornish.