I’m proud to report that this is one of the best dishes I have ever cooked. Not my words – but those of my very discerning wife.
Top-end restaurants would charge you £25 for this amazingly complex and flavoursome dish, but with some time and effort, you could knock it together for a little ore than a fiver.
The recipe comes from my foodie hero Tom Kerridge’s ‘Proper Pub Food’ cookbook, which my wife bought me for Christmas.
It really is the gift that keeps on giving, so watch this space for more TK recipes. I’ve promised my wife I’ll cook at least one a week.
Tom describes these ginger-braised ox cheeks as the best of two worlds: French braising with a hint of Indian spicing.
They are soft, melting, unctuous and tasty beyond belief when married with the spiced dhal and watercress yoghurt.
300ml stout or porter beer
4 star anise
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp ground ginger
2 large ox cheeks, cut in half and trimmed
2 onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, crushed
150g fresh root ginger, finely chopped
900ml beef stock
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the spiced red lentils
250g red lentils
4 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
1 cinnamon stick
Freshly squeezed juice of a lime
For the watercress yogurt
Leaves from 1 bunch of watercress, finely chopped
200g plain yogurt
1 tsp black pepper
1. One or two days before you plan to serve, mix the stour, star anise, coriander and cumin seeds, chilli flakes and ground ginger together in a large bowl. Add the ox cheeks, cover with clingfilm and leave to marinate in the fridge for 24 hours.
2. The next day, remove the ox cheeks from the marinade and pat dry with kitchen towel. Reserve the marinade.
3. Heat about 4 tbsp of rapeseed oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the ox cheeks and sear on both sides until they turn brown and caramelized. Remove the ox cheeks from the pan and set aside.
4. Add the onions to the fat remaining in the pan, reduce the heat to low and fry, stirring occasionally, for around 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another 4-5 minutes, until they are browned but not burnt.
6. Now, here’s where Tom and I deviate – he uses a casserole pot for his cheeks, cooked in a VERY low oven at 140C/Gas 1 for 3-4 hours, but I decided to use my slow cooker, so please read on.Transfer the ox cheeks and onion mixture to a slow cooker and pour in the reserved marinade and beef stock. Cook on LOW for 8 hours, until the cheeks are very tender.
7. The cheeks are ready to eat now, but if you’d prefer to save them, turn the cooker off and leave to cool, then transfer the cheeks and their marinade to a bowl, cover in clingfilm and put in the fridge overnight. This will allow the fat to rise to the top, making it easier to skim off.
8. Meanwhile, make the spiced lentils. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4 and place the lentils on a roasting tray. Put the tray in the oven and toast the lentils for 10-15 minutes until they’re just a little tinged. Remove from the oven and set aside.
9. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a low heat. Add the onion and garlic and fry, stirring occasionally, for at least 5 minutes until softened.
10. Stir in the turmeric and chilli powder and stir for a further 1-2 minutes.
11. Add the lentils and the cinnamon stick, then pour in the chicken stock and bring to the boil.
12. Reduce the heat to low and leave the lentils to simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally to make sure they don’t catch on the base of the pan, for 30-40 minutes until they fall part to a puree consistency. Add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper.
13. Just before serving, mix the watercress, yogurt and black pepper together. Re-heat the ox cheeks and their cooking juices.
14. Serve the cheeks with a little of the cooking juices, the red lentil puree, a dollop of the watercress yogurt. Garnish with coriander and onion slices, if you like.