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The name 'beef cheek' really does refer to the facial cheek muscle of a cow. It's a tough, lean cut of meat often braised or cooked slowly to produce a tender and delicious result. Here are some of our favourite ways to serve them up.

Spanish braised beef cheeks with tomato bread, parsley and anchovy salad


You'll need

50 gm pork back fat, finely chopped (see note) 2 tsp annatto seeds (optional, see note) 1 onion, finely chopped 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped 400 gm (about 3) tomatoes, blanched, peeled and coarsely chopped 2 tsp thyme leaves 2 fresh bay leaves 8 beef cheeks For dusting: seasoned flour 80 ml (1/3 cup) extra-virgin olive oil 1 tbsp smoked sweet paprika Large pinch saffron threads 500 ml (2 cups) manzanilla fina sherry (see note) 40 ml (2 tbsp) sherry vinegar 500 ml (2 cups) chicken stock ¾ cup Spanish green olives   Parsley and anchovy salad 2 red shallots, thinly sliced 2 anchovy fillets, coarsely torn 1 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves ½ lemon, juice and finely grated rind only 60 ml (¼ cup) extra-virgin olive oil   Tomato bread 4 thick slices of ciabatta or sourdough bread 60 ml (¼ cup) extra-virgin olive oil 1 clove of garlic, halved 1 very ripe tomato, halved

Method

  • 01
  • Heat pork back fat in a casserole over medium heat until fat renders (about 2 minutes). Push pork pieces to one side of casserole and add annatto seeds to the other side. Stir seeds (without incorporating pork) until colour has leached from them (about 1 minute), then remove seeds from pan and discard. Reduce heat to low, add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft (about 10 minutes), then add tomato and herbs and cook until tomato breaks down (about 20 minutes). Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside.
  • 02
  • Preheat oven to 160C. Dust beef cheeks with seasoned flour, shaking off excess. Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat, add beef cheeks and cook each side until brown (about 5 minutes), then transfer to casserole. Add smoked paprika and saffron to pan, then deglaze with sherry and sherry vinegar. Add liquid to casserole with stock. Turn to coat beef cheeks and bake, covered with a lid, for 2 hours, then add olives and cook, basting occasionally, until meat is tender (about another 2 hours).
  • 03
  • Reduce temperature to 120C. Drain sauce from casserole into a large saucepan and cook over high heat until reduced to a thick sauce (about 20 minutes), then return to casserole and keep warm.
  • 04
  • Meanwhile, for parsley and anchovy salad, combine ingredients in a bowl and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.
  • 05
  • For tomato bread, heat a chargrill pan over high heat. Brush bread with oil on both sides and grill each side until golden (about 2 minutes each side). Rub each side with cut side of garlic and tomato, squeezing the tomato as you rub, then serve immediately with beef cheeks and parsley salad.
Note Pork back fat is available from select butchers; you may need to order ahead. Annatto seeds, used in Spanish cooking to impart colour to dishes, are available from Herbie’s Spices. Manzanilla fina, a light, dry sherry, is available from liquor stores, or substitute another dry sherry or dry white wine.

At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people

Drink Suggestion

Full-bodied Spanish tempranillo (Ribera del Duero would be good).

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