Cheek to Cheek

After all this cake talk I felt the need to write about something savoury to compensate.

In response to the credit crisis butchers and supermarkets have begun stocking cheaper cuts of meat such as oxtail, liver, oxcheeks, breast of lamb etc.

I am not sure that, with the erosion of cooking skills, many people feel brave enough to tackling these? Waitrose helpfully provide recipes on their meat service counter, but apart from the odd recipe for 5-hour shoulder of lamb, I have not come across many suggestions.

Anyway,  although we eat Savvy meals most of the time for convenience as well as quality control, last week I decided to take the bull by the horns so to speak and bought two ox cheeks.

Now I know this is completely irrational, but I felt a mixture of sadness (for the animal these cheeks were once a part of) and revulsion when I unwrapped what turned out to be large globes of very dark and dense meat.

What would it be like to sink my teeth into the flesh? I felt distinctly Hanibal Lecter-ish.

A couple of hours of very gentle braising with fresh root ginger, chilli and garlic later, I was left with two really tender pieces of meat in a thick gravy which I finished with some grated coconut.

What did the cheeks taste like?

Very rich and very much like I expected a cheek to taste. The texture was soft and a little bit gelatinous.

Not sure I would eat the meat again on its own with, in this case, boiled basmati rice and a green veg, but I think it would make a deliciously rich sauce for pasta or gnochi, a bit like a long-simmered ragu.

So, do give ox cheeks a try! I think they would work well in any slow braised dishes where you otherwise you would use  more expensive feather or leg steak.

What may be worth a try also, assuming last weekend’s lovely warm and sunny weather was not a one-off, is to pair the meat cold/at room temperature with an emerald green, mustardy salsa verde, some plain boiled new potatoes and a few salad leaves.

I feel much better now I have got this off my chest – watch this space for what’s baking later this week!


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