Especially for Christmas, the Grazer, aka Anna Hedworth of Cook House, Ouseburn, Newcastle, serves up slow roast ox cheek with red wine and orange
I think it is safe to say that a lot of the success of this dish lies in your beef stock, so be prepared to take your time over it. And if you make a big batch of stock and freeze some, it then makes this dish much more simple to prepare.
For your stock, simply ask your butcher for some beef bones and roast them at 200C/Gas 6 for about 20 mins until they are golden brown and the fat is sizzling.
While they’re cooking get a big pan, heat a splash of oil, and fry a couple of chopped onions, a big pinch of salt, a couple of chopped red onions, a couple of chopped peeled carrots (the skin can be bitter in a stock), a couple of sticks of chopped celery, a chopped leek, a few sprigs of parsley, a couple of bay leaves, a few black peppercorns, and a couple of cloves of peeled garlic and cook this all until it softens and starts to turn golden. Then add the beef bones and enough water to cover everything. You don’t want too much water as you’ll lose the flavour, so just add enough to cover.
Then bring the whole thing to the boil and simmer very gently for 3 hours. It should be only just moving. “Don’t boil the love out of it”, someone once told me, and I remember it every time. About half way through, you should be able to scoop the bone marrow out of the bones and leave it to melt into the stock as it continues to cook.
I usually do all this the day before as it’s time-consuming, or as I say, make it in batches so that you have a tub of frozen stock ready to use when you want to make this dish.
Now to the cheeks. I serve one cheek per person, but make a few extra just in case you fancy a bit more. Season the cheeks with salt on both sides. Heat a large cast iron pan or frying pan with a splash of olive oil and lay in the ox cheeks when it’s hot. Don’t crowd them, so do them in batches if needs be. And don’t move them around, just leave them to brown in one place for a couple of minutes on each side. You’re looking for golden brown patches to form, all adding to the final flavour. Do this slowly, don’t rush, and when you’re done, place the ox cheeks in a deep baking tray or oven dish.
Then add two sliced onions and two thickly sliced cloves of garlic to the pan you browned the meat in and cook slowly until golden. Now add 125ml red wine and the juice of an orange to the onion pan, heat on high and scrape up anything meaty stuck to the bottom until the liquid has reduced slightly. Pour this over the ox cheeks, then add your delicious beef stock until the cheeks are just poking out of the top – it’ll probably take about 1 litre.
Finally, add to the pan a chopped carrot, a couple of strips of zest from the orange, a chopped-up pear and lots of black pepper. Cover with tin foil and cook in the oven at 180C/Gas 4 for 3 hours, turning the cheeks occasionally.
Then they are ready, they are the most beautifully soft, melty delicious things, with a rich reduced gravy to boot. Serve an ox cheek per person with some vegetables and gravy spooned over, lots of horseradish or mustard, mash, polenta, whatever you fancy. Happy Christmas!