It used to be that nobody cooked beef cheeks and that your butcher probably used to put it in with all the other trimmings for mince. Gone are those days friends. 1kg of beef cheeks cost me about $16 at my butcher, a lot I know, but they’re something I’ve only ever had in restaurants and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to cook with them.
That said, it is perfectly suitable to use any other braising cut of beef for this like chuck or gravy beef or even oxtail or osso bucco.
Regardless, this is a really delicious but different to the usual braise/stew. I love the simplicity of putting something in the oven for a couple of hours and forgetting about it. I really love the sauce for this because it’s so fragrant with ginger, star anise and orange, it’s so unexpected, but I think it’s a great combination for this time of year when it feels right to let go of the stodge and freshen it up a little.
I know that a lot of people are slowcooker fans and this is definitely adaptable for these. I would reduce the amount of water in the sauce to about 1/2 – 1 cup. But please don’t skip the browning step!
I’ve served the braise with a simple Parsnip and Carrot Mash, but you could most certainly do some lovely fragrant jasmine rice to keep it more Asian in theme.
1kg beef cheeks (or other braising beef)
salt and ground black pepper
a little flour for dusting the meat
2 cups (about 1 jar) tomato passata
2 cups water
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
4 whole star anise
4 dried chillies (optional)
2 thumb-sized pieces fresh ginger, thinly sliced (18 slices)
rind of ½ orange, removed with a potato peeler so there is no pith
1 whole head garlic, cloves peeled, smashed with a knife
Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius. Place a heavy based saucepan that can transfer to the oven on a high heat with a little peanut or canola oil. Meanwhile, season the beef cheeks with salt and pepper and lightly dust with flour. Shake off any excess flour and brown in the cast iron pan.
Combine the tomato passata, water, rice vinegar and brown sugar, soy sauce and add to the browned meat in the pan.
Add the star anise, ginger, garlic, chilli (if using) and orange peel.
Place into the oven to cook slowly for about 2 and half hours.
To prepare the mashed parsnip and carrot, take about 5 carrots and 3 parsnips. Peel and thinly slice. Cover in a pan with just enough cold salted water. Bring to the boil, cook until tender, drain. Mash roughly and add a knob of butter (about 30g) to enrich and bring it all together. Optional, but I also like to add a little thinly sliced spring onion.
Once you’re ready to serve, squeeze a little orange juice into the sauce and stir through, this will really brighten the flavour.
Put it all together with some greens and serve.
Look how tender that meat is!