I was near a Waitrose the other day so I decided I’d get some more pork cheeks, as I’d used my last frozen bath of Cheeky Pork Ragu the other week. Sadly the butcher’s counter didn’t have any in stock, but they did have some ox cheeks (which are also very reasonably priced), so I decided to give them a go.
As with the pork cheeks the only recipes I could find in my cook books and online were for braising, so I decided to adapt my ragu recipe yet again. For this recipe I cut the cheeks into chunks. You can cook them whole but they are very large and recipes I found for braising whole ox cheeks recommended they were cooked for 4-6 hours. Long slow cooking is essential with ox cheeks to make sure they are tender.
The recipe makes about 8 portions, depending on how hungry/greedy you are. It freezes really well.
If you want to cook this recipe in a slow cooker follow the recipe below until step 8. Add all ingredients to the crock-pot, with tomato puree, only 1 can of tomatoes, 250g passata, and about half the stock (just make sure the ingredients are covered by the liquid). Add the sugar and salt an hour before the end of the cooking time. Cook on high for 5-6 hours or low for 10-12 hours.
Ox cheeks – 2 (about 400-500g each)
Olive oil – 1 tablespoon for each pan
Onions – 2 red/white/a combination (finely diced)
Anchovies – 1 tin/30g (sliced)
Garlic – 5-7 large cloves (crushed)
Carrots – 2 large (finely diced)
Celery – 2 stalks and the leaves of the heart (finely diced)
Large flat mushrooms – 250g (large dice)
Closed cup mushrooms – 250g (sliced)
Red wine – 200ml
Tomato puree – 80g
Canned tomatoes – 2x 400g tins (I use whole plum tomatoes and mash them up a bit in the pan)
Passata – 700ml
Beef stock – 200ml
Herbs and spices – a good Italian seasoning, chilli flakes, oregano, 2 bay leaves, pepper, salt.
Sugar – 2-3 teaspoons to taste.
Flat leaf parsley – a good handful (chopped)
Equipment: chopping board, knife, garlic crusher, large pan/casserole, large frying pan, wooden spoon, slotted spoon.
- Fry the onions with olive oil in the large pan on a low-medium heat for a few mintues, and then add the anchovies (if tinned in olive oil I add that too). Continue to fry until the onions turn soft and translucent.
- Add the garlic and fry for a few minutes.
- Add the carrots and celery (with a little bit of water if the pan is quite dry) and soften.
- Stir in the diced mushrooms and cook until soft before adding the sliced mushroom.
- Meanwhile, prepare the ox cheeks by removing any excess fat and membrane. Cut into good sized chunks (I cut each cheek into 5).
- Heat olive oil in a hot frying pan and brown the ox cheeks in batches and add to the vegetables.
- When all the meat is browned deglaze the frying pan with the red wine. When it stops smelling like alcohol add it to the pan.
- Add the tomato puree and herbs and spices (except the salt as the anchovies are quite salty), stirring in well, followed by the canned tomatoes, passata and stock.
- Simmer on a low-medium heat for about 3 hours.
- After 2½ hours try the sauce and add the sugar and salt to taste, add extra herbs if desired.
- After 3 hours remove the ox cheeks with a slotted spoon. They should be quite tender. Cut into bit-size chunks knife and fork and return to the pan with the flat leaf parsley for another 30-60 minutes.
- Combine the desired quantity with cooked pasta and serve with plenty of parmesan.
- Dived the rest into freezer safe containers, cool and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost and reheat on the hob. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes.