A cheeky little number….. Beef Cheeks.

Whenever I go home to the North I always call in at my favourite butcher’s, George Bolam at Sedgefield. It’s from here that I have got the more unusual cuts, like plate of beef or lamb henry, where I get the best belly pork, either in strips or rolled, to make the perfect joint with crackling. I get my favourite beef skirt from there, too – the tastiest and tenderest (if cooked quickly) steak imaginable. He makes his own haggis and black pudding and has the widest variety of sausages imaginable.  He has a bakery there too, a deli, a fish counter and an amazing selection of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Everything I get from George’s is absolutely fresh, generally local and incredibly good value and that is, I suppose, why all of us should support our local butchers rather than just buy meat from supermarkets.

On my last trip home, I called in to stock up on meat to bring back to the city and saw, for the first time on his shelves, cheeks of beef.

These are, as you would imagine, the cheeks of the cows. The price was incredible – 717g of meat for £3.14? I had to buy it and try it.

So, that was frozen and put into the freezer until I had time to think of what to do with it and the time to cook it.

And then I got ill. I could barely move and any cooking that needed me to be alert and available to do things was out of the question. To be fair, I didn’t want to eat either so for days I lived on hot drinks and an occasional slice of toast.

Then one day I realised I had to have more than that – the Bear needed feeding, for one thing. And then I remembered the beef cheeks in the freezer.

Now, a cheek of a cow would get a lot of exercise, I would have thought. All that chewing of the cud must give those cheek muscles a good work out. Cows seem to chew none stop. So a well muscled piece of meat would need long and slow cooking. And the best thing about long and slow cooking is that it requires minimal preparation, even less attention and the opportunity for a nap while it cooks.

The end result is always something succulent and tasty, perfect for anybody…. even an invalid.

That settled it. I summoned up the strength to go to the kitchen and took out the cheeks to defrost. I would cook them the next day.

The next morning, I unwrapped them and looked at them properly. They were much larger than I thought they were going to be.

What a size they were….I have normal human sized hands, you know, it’s not as if I am a miniature person. Each cheek was bigger than my outstretched hand.

That was going to feed four, at least.

As with so many delicious things, the simplest way is often the best way and with slow cooked food that seems to be particularly true.

I dusted them with flour…..

… and then browned them quickly in a splash of oil, in the bottom of a hot casserole.

I poured in some stock, made from granules and hot water and then thought I could perhaps boost the flavour even more……As we seemed to be stockpiling port, I decided to add a good amount of it to make the gravy even more delicious. I don’t know when we were going to get around to drink it all, so it seems a good choice to use it in cooking now and again.

Don’t worry if you haven’t got port, or don’t want to use it. Use all stock instead, or maybe add in some wine, or sherry… it’s your choice. You do need to add something to make the gravy with, so add enough liquid of whatever you fancy to just cover the meat.

I chopped in some carrots and parsnips and put the covered casserole into the oven at 160° C/320 °F for three hours.

The smell was amazing.

As the oven was on anyway, I scrubbed some potatoes, jabbed them with a knife so they wouldn’t burst, rubbed them with oil to make the skin crispy and put them in the oven to bake alongside the cheeks, then I went back to bed.

When I next roused myself, I went upstairs to a beautifully warm kitchen, filled with wonderfully rich and aromatic smells and opened the oven.

The potatoes were perfect and the beef cheeks looked good. More than good, actually.

I got a spoon to stir the vegetables and gravy round and moved a cheek… the spoon went through it.

Remember how big those cheeks were? Well they were still in one piece, it’s not as if it was all in bits and easy to scoop up. People say, when they are talking about tender meat, that you can cut it with a spoon but this was the first time ever that I really could do that.

The spoon sank through the silky soft meat and there, on the bowl of the spoon, was the most delicious looking piece of meat.

And the taste? It was beyond delicious. It was rich and soft, succulent and tasty.

Probably the best beef stew I had ever eaten. In fact, calling it a beef stew seems to be a bit of an insult.

The vegetables had kept their shape in the long, low and slow cooking and were perfectly tender. The funny thing is, I’m not that fond of cooked carrots, especially cooked carrots in what is, to all intents and purposes, a simple stew but these were gorgeous. They still tasted carroty but they also had a deep rich layer of taste from the gravy.  I loved them.

But it was the meat that was the star of the show and now, thinking back as I write this, I long for beef cheeks again. So much so that I’ve just ‘phoned my mother and asked her to go and get me some more and freeze them ready for me to collect on my next trip.

Those two cheeks made enough to feed four or five healthy appetites….and for those weakened by the dreadful colds and flu, well that boosted my appetite and for the first time in days I enjoyed my food.

Simple, so very simple and it cost so little.

If you see beef cheeks, buy them immediately. If you don’t see them, start picketing the butcher to get some for you. You won’t regret it… although you may regret the fact you spend days yearning for beef cheeks when there are none available.

29 thoughts on “A cheeky little number….. Beef Cheeks.”

  1. Oh yum. I quite often make a stew with oxtail and it is so rich and tasty. Have never tried cheeks though, going to look out for them now. Hope you’re feeling a lot better.

  2. I have to say I’d never seen cheeks before… and this is MUCH nicer than oxtail. It’s as rich and tasty but the meat….there’s so much of it and oh it is divine! (Actually, I bet the reason we hardly see beef cheeks is that the butchers probably keep them for themselves!)

  3. oooh I am drooling! My wee slow cooker has been neglected, it might be time to try out these beef cheeks! Glad to hear you’re feeling better 😀

  4. It looks delicious. I stood close to a cow yesterday and it is only when you are standing next to one that you realise just how big they actually are. This is especially the case when you are feeding them and they start to nudge you. It is quite unnerving. We are having oxtail for tea tonight.

  5. Looks great but have never seen or heard of Beef Cheeks but then who knows, maybe it is chopped up in with the Stewing Beef we buy. Will ask at one of our Butcher Shops as am now curious.

    Glad you are blogging again.

  6. Hi Wendy, happy new year! You are so lucky – I asked my butcher for beef cheeks (or pig cheeks) a few months ago and he looked at me like I was deranged. I haven’t been brave enough to try again but you have inspired me. That meat looks amazing (hmmm, maybe I AM deranged…)!

  7. Oh Wendy, that has made me laugh. Poor cows, not this one though as it is a friend’s favourite breeding cow, so lucky thing gets to avoid that fate for a few years yet.

  8. I have eaten pig’s cheeks and they are really delicious…all the muscles there. I bet beef cheeks taste equally good. I have to look out for that. I have 2 bottles of port which I didn’t know what to do. Now I know what to use it for…stew! 😀

  9. Port can be a little heavy as a drink but added to meat cooking, Mary.. it makes a fantastically sweetly savoury gravy!

  10. i work at bolams! all meat is completely fressh and slaughtered on the premesis. and wrapped the same day ready for the shelves the next morning. always a busy place

  11. It’s a fantastic place, happyhappy! Best butchers ever.. you always have interesting cuts and George and the boys are lovely. They look after my mum when she goes there and even help her with her shopping. You all should be congratulated for working in such a friendly and efficent place. I’m going to miss it so much when I move.

  12. Just bought a huge beef cheek (just for 2 of us) from our local butcher’s (Radcliffe’s of Castletown Isle of Man – plug plug)..not tried before but I’m so looking forward to cooking this on Monday.

  13. Oh you will love it…a meat that you can cut with a spoon? The taste is fantastic and I bet you make beef cheek again and again! Tell us how it turned out 🙂

  14. Oh my word! That was the best thing I have tasted in a long long time! I left it in the oven, on timed, while I was out at work..for four hours..when I peeked in after 3 3/4 hours I thought all the gravy had disappeared, so I took it out & left it on top while doing some mash – but no, there was plenty enough gravy left for 2. And yes, I halved the cheek with a plastic serving spoon!

  15. I knew it! I’m not a great fan of stewed beef but this is deliciously rich and succulent. And not expensive 🙂 A great dish and perfect to come home to.

  16. Had a day out yesterday. Wednesday 3rd., with my wife and two friends. For our midday meal we went to the Bedingfield Arms, next to Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk. They had beef cheeks on the menu and mainly out of curiosity two of us chose that as our meal. Oh boy !! what a lovely meal – one of the most tastiest I’ve ever had (and that is saying something!). Beautifully cooked to perfection, with fresh veggies and a great tasting gravy, thick and dark. Our first knowledge of this, and already we are intent on finding a butcher who sells it. One in Oundle I hear.

  17. WEnt out with friends for a drive around Norfolk. Found a place next to Oxburgh Hall, Bedingfield Arms, and had dbeef cheeks. Boy! what a lovely meal. We hear a butcher in Oundle sells it !!

  18. You must cook the cheeks and tell me how they turned out! I said it was the tastiest meat ever…. I reckon we don’t see much in the shops because any butcher with sense is keeping it for himself!

  19. Its jan 2013 Tesco meat counter in Hartlepool are selling ox cheeks, they are £5 per kilo, I have bought 3 kilos to stash in freezer, cut one up and browned with onion then made stock with bisto and 2 beef oxos, I don’t like putting flour on meat first before browning as it makes the consistency too thick to slow cook , I shall make crispy leek dumplings and pop them in 30 mins before serving x

  20. I bought them as I have eaten pigs cheeks before, and use cod cheeks to make fishcakes, best way to try and save money and still make good tasty meals, also love beef skirt too, and if I am fortunate for someone to take me to bolems, their pickled beef joints are really nice too, just steep in water the night before and slow cook like brisket, the pickling tenderises the beef, no taste of vineager and the meat is so succulent it is unbelievable x

  21. Oh Mag… I must tell my brother as he often goes to that Tesco! I’ve not tried George’s pickled beef joint – I shall get one when I next come back to the UK and cook it for my mother. Thanks for that tip!

  22. I went down to Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe last week and asked for beef cheeks. They didn’t have any in, but a local taco truck gets them by the case, and they pulled out three pounds and froze it for me at $3.39/lb next order

    Picked them up today; they are thawing in the meat compartment, awaiting their date with my slow cooker.

  23. You lucky, lucky thing… I have spent weeks over here searching for beef cheeks. Not one to be had unless it is a Wagyu beef cheek and there’s no way we can afford that!

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