Beef cheeks and ribs – slow food cooking

I’d heard about beef cheeks on the cooking shows on TV but never seen them until recently when I found some at our local butcher shop. The butcher recommended cooking them in the pressure cooker for 1.5 hours or 4 – 5 hours on the stove or in the oven. I bought 3 beef cheeks and what strange bits of meat they are, very tough, you just about need a chain saw to cut through them! I trimmed them a little, cut them in half, tossed them in plain flour before browning them in butter and then  into the pressure cooker with red wine, garlic, carrots, celery, fennel, parsley, sage, thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper, chilli and some stock (lots of very strong flavours). The smell coming out of the pressure cooker for 1.5 hours was delightful and I was intrigued to see how they would turn out, and ooh la la I could not believe it, they were very, melt in your mouth good. I wasn’t sure what to do next so I put the meat and strained stock in the fridge for a day or so until I decided what to make with them. I ended up making a hearty family pie by cutting the meat into bite sized pieces, made a gravy out of the stock and topped it with mashed potato and puff pastry. My next attempt at cooking beef cheeks was on the stove top, I used a similar process but cooked it for about 5 hours on a very low heat, they turned out just the same and I made another yummy pie with them.

Beef cheeks are a relatively cheap cut of beef but please buy them already trimmed because there is so much wastage on the untrimmed ones and they are absolutely ghastly to look at and handle (they look like a part of the creature from the movie “The Thing”). I enjoyed my experiments with beef cheeks and look forward to many more – on French Food Safari I watched a chef pull apart some well cooked beef cheeks, he added some finely diced carrots and celery and seasonings and formed this into a sausage shape, he then wrapped it in cling wrap and let it set in the fridge. The French chef then enclosed the beef sausage with bric pastry and fried it in butter until golden, it looked very edible indeed!

My next meat adventure was with beef and pork spareribs, I’d made some american style pork ribs before but the ribs we had in England were the best we have ever had – sticky, spicy, tender, juicy and tasty! Oh how I would like to make ribs like those so after a bit of research my first experiment was with short beef ribs first and then some meaty pork ribs from Siketa’s (best pork in Geelong). They both worked out OK but there is definitely room for improvement – not quite the “English” gold standard as yet – I’ll just have to keep trying.