I have always told my students in the past that there are no right or wrong combinations. Food is a very personal thing and different combinations appeal to different people. I hate food snobbery. I also hate bad food. So on second thoughts maybe I am an inverted snob. Face it, life is to short too eat bad food and drink cheap wine as the saying goes. What I love, is the idea that anyone can cook up a feast, big or small, in their own homes and really not have to spend a fortune to do it. An interesting thing about a recession is that it throws up cuts of meat and new recipes that perhaps people have never seen before. Although I think that by enlarge we eat too much meat, it's fun to find a cut that is so easy to cook, cheap and naturally delicious too.
Such a cut is Beef Cheek. Oh, please don't be put off just because it's a slightly odd bit of meat. The great thing about is that it's so versatile. It doesn't have that really deeply beefy flavour that shin, for example, can have but it's delicious all the same. It is good enough to replace you Sunday roast, really it is. I'm going to add a recipe for cooking it and turning it into Canelloni which can then be frozen or sit in the fridge for a couple of days. If you're having it for a dinner party, just use the first recipe for slow cooked beef cheek. It will slice beautifully. Just don't tell anyone it's actually cheek until the plates have been licked clean!
2-3 beef (ox) cheeks, trimmed of tough sinew
Olive oil and a knob of butter
½ bottle good red wine
1.7 litres/3 pints chicken stock
1 onion, finely diced
2 sticks of celery, finely diced
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
4 rashers of streaky bacon, cut into thin strips
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tsp. cocoa powder
4 fresh bay leaves To garnish:
1 sprig thyme Flat leaf parsley
Salt & pepper
2 star anise
4 spice cloves
•Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3.
• Heat a large, heavy pan and add some olive oil. Season the beef cheeks very well and sear all over until very brown and crusted. Remove from the pan and set aside.
•Add the butter, bacon, garlic, diced onion, celery and carrots to the pan with some salt and pepper. Cook gently for a few minutes and then stir in the cocoa powder. Pour in the red wine and chicken stock.
•Add the bay leaves, thyme, star anise and cloves. Return the browned meat to the pan and immerse in the liquid.
•Bring the pot to the boil and then place in the oven for 2 ½-3 hours.
•Once the meat is meltingly tender, carefully remove it from the pot. Reduce the liquid by half over a medium heat. Re-season if necessary and stir in some fresh parsley and a knob of butter.
•It should be possible to slice the cheeks even though they are so tender. Serve hot with crispy potatoes and any vegetable you like!
500g/1 lb. 2 oz cannelloni pasta tubes
75g/3 oz parmesan cheese
For the béchamel: For the filling:
50g/2 oz butter 2 slow cooked beef cheeks
50g/2 oz plain flour and 600ml of sauce as per recipe
600ml/1 pint warm milk above
Freshly grated nutmeg 250g tub ricotta
Salt & pepper
•Start with the filling. Cut, shred and pull the beef cheeks apart and mix into the sauce. Season to taste
•To make the béchamel, make a roux first. Melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook for a few minutes over a medium heat but do not allow to brown. Remove for the heat and add the warm milk little by little whisking well constantly until all of the milk has been added. Replace on the heat until the sauce begins to thicken. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, whisking all the time. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
•Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
• Fill each pasta tube with some of the beef mixture. Add some of the left over sauce on the base of an oven proof dish and dot all over with half the ricotta. Add the pasta tubes in layers and then add the other half of the ricotta and any left-over beef cheek mixture. Top with the béchamel sauce and sprinkle with parmesan.
•Bake for 40-50 minutes until bubbling, golden and piping hot.
Serve with a dressed salad and crusty bread.