It’s winter, and time to dine like a king on what was once considered a poor man’s cut of meat
CERTAIN cuts of meat that were once considered scraps have now found themselves on the tables of gourmets the world over. Amazing cuts such as pork belly and lamb necks were once discarded in western butcher shops or sold off as pet food simply because home cooks did not know what to do with them or the well-to-do turned up their nose at the sight. Poorer farmers would keep the tougher or less visually appealing portions for themselves. Now that winter is here I get to use one of my favourite cuts of beef, one that was once dismissed as peasant food – beef cheeks. But let’s call it what it really is, cow face. Beef cheeks, the facial cheek mussmooth, cle of a cow, melt in your mouth when slowly braised and have a texture that is meaty and silky at the same time. It is also a cheap cut that won’t break the bank, so stock up. Ingredients Beef: 1kg beef cheeks, about 4 cheeks, 2 large roughly cubed carrots, 4 sticks roughly chopped celery, 2 large quartered onions, 3 crushed garlic cloves, 4 strips of diced streaky bacon, 10 whole button mushrooms, 500ml beef stock, 2 cups medium bodied red wine, 1/3 cup plain flour to coat, salt and pepper to taste. Roasted pumpkin puree: 1kg pumpkin peeled and chopped, 2 tbs olive oil, pinch salt. Method: Preheat oven to 180C. Separate the beef cheeks and pat dry with paper towel, removing any excess moisture. Season 1/3 of a cup of plain flour with salt and pepper and coat the beef cheeks until completely coated. In a large french pan or dutch oven, fry off the diced bacon until crispy. Drain the bacon on paper towels and reserve the rendered bacon fat in the pan. Saute the mushrooms and onions in the bacon fat and set aside. Brown the floured beef cheeks in the pan until sealed all over. Remove from the pan and reserve. Deglaze the pan with a cup of red wine, carrots, garlic and celery and braise until translucent. Return the beef cheeks to the pan with the rest of the wine and the stock. Bring to the boil and cover with the lid. Remove from the stove and place in the oven for 1½ hours. Remove the pan from the oven and return to the stove. Carefully remove the beef cheeks and set aside. With a stick mixer, puree the remaining vegetables in the pan until a gravy-like consistency is formed. Return the beef cheeks to the pan along with the mushrooms and onions. Simmer until reduced. Roasted pumpkin puree: Line a roasting tray with baking paper and arrange the pumpkin. Coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 180C for about 25 minutes or until golden and caramelised. Mash and whisk the pumpkin until smooth. To serve: Divide the beef cheeks on to 4 plates with equal portions of mushrooms and onions and plenty of sauce. Add the side of pumpkin puree and garnish with the fried bacon bits.