Type in “beef cheeks” on Food.com and there are 5 measly recipes for beef cheeks. Type in “beef” - you’re confronted with 49,234 results. It's safe to say the beef cheek isn’t a particularly popular cut of meat.
In my recent post, 'Sustainably sourced meat and nose-to-tail cooking - the beginning' - I reflect on my somewhat strong belief that it can be sustainable to eat meat, we just need to ensure its farmed properly, invest in learning about its provenance and traceability, and get back to consuming each and every part of an animal so nothing is wasted. Twice a month, I’m planning on posting a new recipe utilising a less popular cut of meat and this time around, it’s time for the beef cheeks to have ten minutes of fame.
As you’ve probably guessed, beef cheeks (sometimes called ox cheeks) are the facial cheek muscle of a cow. The life of a cow is primarily grazing (ideally on grass, but more often than not on grain); therefore the cheek is pretty much almost constantly working throughout the animal’s life, making it a rather tough cut of meat.
Tougher cuts generally mean budget cuts, but thankfully less-expensive cuts of meat can taste just as delicious if prepared correctly. When cooked low and slow, all the connective tissue transforms into the reward of meltingly tender, meaty goodness, with a rich, deep flavour and wonderfully savoury cooking juices. Patience is a virtue with tougher cuts, as they need to be cooked in a slow cooker or in a casserole dish on a low heat in the oven for 6-8 hours, depending on the cut.
As the beef cheeks absorb the flavours of braising liquid well, when you cut into the meat, it almost resembles pulled pork/brisket. When paired with silky smooth butternut mash, doused in a reduction of its cooking juices and finished off with fresh pomegranate for freshness, you have a dish made in heaven - minimum fuss but maximum impact.
Cooking with beef cheeks is a great way to support the service and skills of your local butcher as there's a good chance you'll need to order these in, as it’s not a cut that’s available easily within the supermarket. I source all of my meat from Dorking Butchery in Surrey.
As chefs and independent retailers strive to promote inexpensive and lesser-known ingredients, let’s hope beef cheeks will become more popular.
Check out my friend Lindies' debut food video of the recipe below, to find out more about Lindie visit www.lindiedesign.com.
POMEGRANATE BEEF CHEEKS WITH BUTTERNUT MASH (sERVES 4)
For the Meat:
For the Vegetables:
For the beef cheeks:
For the butternut squash mash:
Wonky Parsnips is an awareness-raising blog that aims to change the way we engage with food.
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