SLOW COOKERS & FORGOTTEN CUTS: GET YOUR CHEEK ON
Twenty years ago, when I moved into my first flat, with my future wife, my mother gave me a gift. It was a rather bulky, brown slow cooker and, to be honest, it soon began to gather dust at the back of a kitchen cabinet.
Move on a few years and, newly single, a bit strapped for cash and in a job that involved long and slightly odd hours, I rediscovered said cooker and began to acquaint myself with the joys of slow cooking. Taking cheap cuts of meat and a few vegetables and leaving them to simmer so they released all their flavours and made sure my return home was greeted with a waft of welcoming, savoury steam.
Move on even more years and I still have the same slow cooker. It still sits in a kitchen cabinet and is still in perfect working order. Every now and again, it makes an appearance and last week, prompted by the sight of large chunks of Ox tail in Waitrose, I decided to give cooking of the slow kind another whirl.
They did not have enough Oxtail to satisfy typical DH supper requirements, so I was delighted when the woman behind the counter produced a couple of large Ox cheeks and asked me if I wanted to take those too.
Well, of course I did. Ox cheek is making an appearance on menus all over the country and, at £2.50 for two huge slabs of beef, it is no wonder. But, given the grain of the meat and the amount of sinew there is only one way to bring out the incredible flavour. Long, slow cooking.
I threw an onion, a few carrots and some garlic in my basket along with a bottle of the splendid Meantime Porter to help matters along and scurried back home to spend the next few hours prepping supper.
Using a trick I picked up from Warrick Dodds in Lancashire, I sweated the carrots and onions off with a little sugar to help bring out their sweetness and added them to the cooker with the meat, which had been tossed in seasoned flour and browned in butter.
Finally, half a bottle of beer, a bunch of rosemary, a little bit of thyme, lots of salt and pepper and a few strips of lemon peel and that was it for the next few hours as the flat began to fill with the most incredible smell as the slow cookng worked its magic. I resisted taking a peek until, five hours later, it was time to skim off the fat and thicken the sauce slightly with a mix of butter and flour.
And, the end result?
Well, even if I say so myself, it is one of the best stews I have ever put my name to. The ox cheek was, as my doppelganger Mr G Wallace might say “deep and savoury” and the ox tail gave up chunks of deliciously fatty meat. And all that, enough to feed four hungry prople,or DH, for less than £7
What can I say, but that I think it is time for all of you to get your cheek on.