This week, I have been mostly eating beef cheeks.
Like the humble lamb shank, and osso buco before that, beef cheeks have suddenly experienced a revival. They’ve leapt onto the plates of diners who are paying top dollar for what was once considered an offcut.
The thing is, I really like beef cheeks. And I really like lamb shanks and osso buco too. These traditionally cheap cuts (I use the term “cheap” loosely!) tend to have a higher proportion of fat, sinew, connective tissue and/or bone in them. Provided they are cooked correctly this generally means they are more delicious, though they do require a little time and care when cooking.
So far my favourite version has been at The Eathouse Diner in Redfern, where the cheeks are stewed in pomegranate molasses (oh!), red wine and fragrant spices, served with figs and cauliflower dumplings. Incredibly rich and piquant, it is the perfect dish for a cold winter evening.
Having already had the pomegranate molasses version this week, tonight I decided to try something different with my beef cheeks from Dulwich Hill Gourmet Meats. Rummaging through my many, many jars of random pickles, spices and pastes I discovered a tin of chipotle chillies in adobo sauce – perfect for combining with Green & Black 85% dark chocolate to make some mole poblano!
Beef Cheeks Mole Poblano
- 4 teaspoons sesame seeds
- 4 cloves
- 1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon marjoram
- 6 beef cheeks, trimmed
- 4 red onions, finely chopped
- 10 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
- 80g dark, bitter chocolate
- 1 large tablespoon chipotle chillies in adobo sauce, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoons raisins, finely chopped
- 1 tin tomatoes
- 1 cup beef stock or beer
- 3 tablespoons almond meal
- Toast all the spices gently in a dry pan until fragrant, then pound together in a mortar and pestle until smooth.
- In a heavy based pan, heat a little oil until almost smoking. Sear the cheeks, three at a time, until browned on each side. Remove the cheeks and set aside.
- Saute garlic for a few minutes then add onions and soften.
- Tip in spices and fry until fragrant.
- Add chillies and raisins and allow to cook until slightly caramelised, then add in the chocolate.
- Throw in the tomatoes and their juices and the beer of stock. Break up tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
- Return the beef cheeks and ensure they’re covered with the sauce.
- Cover and simmer gently (in a 150C oven is good) for 4-5 hours, or until fall-apart tender.
- Stir through 3 tablespoons of almond meal to thicken and season to taste.
- Serve with rice which has been tossed with butter, cinnamon and toasted almonds, and top with fresh coriander and sour cream.