It’s not a looker – neither the starting cheek, nor the finished dish. But, blimey, it packs a punch. Beef cheeks, slowly simmered in red wine and Pedro Ximenez. Some sweet red peppers added halfway through. And then ethereally light, milky cauliflower purée to calm and soothe the powerful, shouty flavours of the stew. One hundred per cent Lush. Do it.
This recipe relates to a piece I wrote for Borough Market’s magazine: ‘Market Life’. My regular column in that *excellent* publication is on the theme of ugly duckling ingredients. The beef cheek intro is online now, should you wish to read it.
Pedro Ximenez braised beef cheeks
- 4 beef cheeks (approx 2-2.3kg), sinew trimmed and halved
- 3-4 tablespoons light vegetable oil
- 3 brown onions, peeled and quartered
- 250g carrots, peeled and cut into 4cm lengths
- 1 bulb garlic, halved through the middle
- 500ml red wine (Rioja)
- 375ml Pedro Ximenez sherry
- Leaves stripped from 10-14 sprigs thyme
- 4 large red peppers, cut into 6 wedges
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 2 small-medium cauliflowers and their green leaves
- 1.3 litres whole milk
- 1 brown onion, peeled and cut into 6 wedges
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- Sea salt and white pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 140C.
Place a heavy-bottomed frying pan over a high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and brown the cheeks on all sides (you will need to do this in batches). Decant to a large casserole or oven proof saucepan with a lid.
Add more oil to the pan and fry the onion quarters until golden on all sides. Add the carrots and garlic halves and sauté for 2 minutes more, before transferring to the casserole. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and reduce for a minute, before adding to the casserole with the Pedro Ximenez. Season with the thyme leaves, salt and pepper, gently mix then bring to a simmer. Place a lid on the saucepan and cook in the oven for a total of 3-4 hours. Add the peppers to cheeks after 90 minutes of cooking, and occasionally check for progress and to push the beef under the cooking liquor. It’s ready when the cheeks are tender, near wobbly.
Meanwhile, trim the green leaves from the cauliflowers and put to one side. Cut the florets from the cauliflower and the stem into 2cm thick wedges, then put all the white parts in a saucepan along with the onion, garlic and milk. Place over a medium heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the cauliflower is soft.
Scoop the cauliflower and onion into blender or food processor, add a good pinch of salt, white pepper and three quarters of the warm milk. Blend until smooth and silky – add more milk and seasoning if required (it should be quite light and loose).
Trim and wash the greens and blanch for 1-2 minutes, before draining and serving next to a generous dollop of purée, the cheeks, peppers, carrots and rich PX gravy.