Recipe: Red Wine Braised Ox Cheeks

There’s few things I dislike about Autumn. Spiders are one of them (I HATE the things, some of the monsters in the Lake District were certainly scream-inducing!), and my craving for comfort food is another. It’s not that I don’t love Autumnal food. I do. It’s just that so often it takes a good few hours to cook, and that’s just not possible after work. So I stick to quicker things, dinners far less comforting, and get grumpy as a result.

 photo Ox Cheeks_zpsxujzazec.pngAll that’s changed.

Thanks to Debenhams, I’m now the proud owner of a pressure cooker*. And it makes stews in around half an hour. Add in the chopping, a bit of frying, thickening the sauce and making the mash/dumplings and you’ve got a heart bowl of comforting food in well under an hour. Boom.

 photo Ox Cheeks in Red Wine 9_zpsndjrtnxv.jpg photo Ox Cheeks in Red Wine 1_zpsywqzxyuj.jpg photo Ox Cheeks in Red Wine 3_zps0plqwrqr.jpgI have to admit, the pressure cooker scared me at first. This is by far and away the most technical bit of cooking equipment I have ever used. The strict safety warnings made me worry I was going to create something explosive. It just looks intimidating. It makes horrendous noises when letting the pressure out at the end of cooking. It took us no less than four attempts to do the ‘initial steam’ before first use. But it was worth it.

Boy, was it worth it. By cooking Ox Cheek in a pressure cooker we were able to break down the tough meat quickly, with the result so meltingly tender we divided it up with a spoon.Cheeks are a budget cut of meat (ours worked out at around £1.50 for a massive portion) that are made for slow cooking, and using a pressure cooker cuts this time down massively – I reckon this would take at least five hours normally. We cooked a whole cheek weighing half a kilo and that needed just over an hour to break down, cut into pieces you could do it in 30. Then there’s the sauce. So, so good. The braising gravy is infused with so much tasty flavour and then pureed (my new favourite trick!) to transform into a thick, glossy sauce that coats the meat, soaks into mash and begs to be mopped up with bread or just slurped with a spoon. I have no shame when it comes to gravy like this.

 photo Ox Cheeks in Red Wine 2_zps7u5mttki.jpgIngredients (Served two greedy people with leftovers)

  • 3 tbsp oil, separated
  • 1 large ox cheek (around 500g)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 celery sticks
  • 3 carrot
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1½ tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1½ tsp mustard
  • 400ml beef stock
  • 125ml red wine (we went for the cheapest Sainsbury’s had)
  • plenty of black pepper and salt, to season

Prepare the beef cheek: cut off any large, fatty membrane. Pat dry then cover with plain flour (seasoned with salt and pepper). Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Sear the beef cheek on each side until nicely browned.

 photo Ox Cheeks in Red Wine 4_zpszvubq49w.jpgTurn down the heat to medium and heat the remaining  oil. Add the onion and carrots. Sauté for 3 minutes until the onion isstarting to soften, then add the celery and garlic and continue to sauté for another 3 minutes. Pop the veg mixture into the cooker and place the beef cheek on top. Pour the wine into the frying pan and return to heat. Turn the heat up to high, bring to boil and let bubble for 1 minute whilst scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the wine into the cooker, then all the remaining ingredients and season well.

Close up the pressure cooker, following all instructions, then cook on ‘high’ for around 1 hour – we used the ‘Stew’ setting on our cooker. When done, release the pressure and leave until ready to open before testing the meat. If the meat doesn’t fall apart when pressed with a spoon, give it a little longer.

Open the cooker and ladle out around half the veg. Discard any thyme stems and bay leaves. Use a blender to puree the veg, then add back to the cooker and stir well – it should thicken the sauce well. If it’s still a little thin, puree a bit more veg, if it’s too thin add a little stock or some water. Taste taste and season if necessary, then serve with mash and plenty of green vegetables.

 photo Ox Cheeks in Red Wine 6_zpsfdkqtp3e.jpgIn just over an hour we had a gorgeous comforting meal on the table, and having played around with the pressure cooker a little more we figured out cutting the meat up would give us the chance of cooking a stew in under 30 minutes. Can’t get better than that!

What’s your favourite comfort food? Have you tried using a pressure cooker?

Recipe: Roast Brisket & Leftover Stew

This has got to be my favourite roast so far. Brisket is such a bargain cut of beef, £8 for just over a kilogram that will stretch to at least six servings – you can’t go wrong!

 photo Roast Brisket 5_zpskaahsqac.jpgNot only is it cheap, it’s also damn yummy. Intensely meaty and extremely tender, as long as you cook it gently you can’t really muck this roast up. I’ve had a lot of horrible roast beef dinners in my time, to the point I’d never order it out, however I genuinely think anyone could make this. And the leftovers are even better…

Here I’ve made a simple stew with the leftover meat and gravy, bulking it with veg and pearl barley. Great as it is, even better topped with pastry to make the most comforting pie. I’m also told the leftover meat is amazing in things like a chilli – something for next time!

 photo Roast Brisket 2_zpsyahokv2u.jpgAs with all my roasts I’ve gone with my trust Save With Jamie book – honestly my favourite ever cookbook. It’s strange, I can’t stand Jamie on TV but I adore his cookbooks…


  • Brisket, approx 1kg (I buy it rolled)
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 1 onion
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1/2 bunch rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Beef stock (1 litre)
  • For the stew: carrots, onion, celery, pearl barley, extra mustard/seasoning, leftover meat/gravy and any other veg you fancy.

 photo Roast Brisket 1_zpslz2twrnd.jpgHeat the oven to around 170C, and bring the brisket to room temperature. Heat a little oil in a casserole dish and brown the brisket well, before spreading with mustard, and seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the veg to the bottom of the pan, top with the brisket and sprinkle with rosemary.

Add around 75ml of water to the pan, then dampen a piece of greaseproof paper. Press the paper around the beef, then seal the pan with two layers of tin foil. Roast for 3-4 hours, checking mid-way through to ensure the pan hasn’t dried out.

Remove the beef from the pan and place on a warm plate, before wrapping in foil to rest. Pop the pan on the hob and add the flour, stirring to form a paste. I always try to mash up the veg into the gravy at this stage for some extra flavour too. Then gradually add the stock, seasoning with the balsamic. Simmer for around 5-10 minutes then strain through a sieve.

 photo Roast Brisket 3_zps86yhhyv4.jpg photo Roast Brisket 4_zpst4pleajp.jpgServe the brisket in chunks with plenty of gravy, and some good roast potatoes. Veg too, if you must…

For a leftover stew, simply dice up the veg and soften in a little oil. I like to cook them down slowly at this stage until they are nice and caramelised. Add the pearl barley, meat and gravy (don’t break up the meat, just add it in big pieces as it will break up as it continues to cook), and simmer for around 90 minutes – make sure you stir occasionally as the pearl barley does like to stick at the bottom of the pan. Check for seasoning, adding more mustard, balsamic etc to taste. If it’s a little thick add more stock, add a cornflour paste if it’s too thin.

 photo Roast Brisket 6_zpsbobqgrmk.jpg photo Roast Brisket 7_zpsgj4dgoo5.jpgI was going to finish this post with a recipe for rough puff pastry – but it failed miserably and virtually melted to my worktop. Just don’t ask. I will say that the stew is excellent with emergency chip shop chips though! And ready-made shop-bought pastry of course…

Are you a fan of roast beef? Have you ever cooked with brisket before?

Recipe: Slow Cooker Beef Rendang

I’ve gotten hugely into Thai food lately. I blame Surrey. There’s a hugely disproportionate number of Thai restaurants here, with Reigate alone having three or four at last count. Being one of my favourite cuisines anyway, I challenged myself with trying them all out. And got hooked. And started cooking it myself. Now my fridge is a fragrant combination of coriander (though any ideas on how to keep it fresh for longer than a day?!), ginger, lemongrass and chillies. I always feel quite healthy after eating Thai, it’s a lot lighter than Indian, and a lot easier to load with fresh veg. It’s quicker too, I find the flavours don’t need as long to develop. It’s easy to whip up a Thai Green Curry completely from scratch after work, and I’m working on an amazing soup recipe to share with you all.

 photo 68ba1fe1-5d9f-4cca-ae44-7c62facf3588_zpsd5827237.jpgThis recipe is a bit different. It’s slightly more luxurious than your usual Thai, slightly heavier and richer, but still fragrant. And although it could be cooked quick, the beefy flavours definitely benefit from a day in the slow cooker. Not to mention that the cheap back of stewing steak turns melt-in-the-mouth tender. And my whole house smelt pretty damn amazing all day. There’s nothing better than coming in from the cold to the scent of something slow cooking, and this spicy twist was enough to have me wishing for dinner time at 2pm.

Ideally and authentically the pasta would have galangal in – but I can’t seem to find this anywhere. I’m not sure what it adds to the flavour, but if I find some I’ll let you know! My amounts below made two generous servings.

Ingredients (paste)

  • 1″ piece of ginger, peeled
  • 2 red chillies
  • 3 garlic cloves (I love garlic)
  • 1 stick of lemongrass
  • 1/2 onion, or a couple of shallots
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • stalks of 1/2 a bunch of coriander, and a few leaves too
  • 1 tablespoon of oil

Rest of Ingredients

  • 250g of stewing steak
  • 1/2 tin coconut milk
  • 100ml beef stock (I used 100ml water and half a stock cube)

Make the Paste

 photo 15c16f2b-b748-45f9-bc38-f7a96dde8243_zps62fd85a6.jpgPrepare all of the paste ingredients, through into a food chopped, and blitz until it is as paste like as you can get it. My chopper isn’t brilliant, and hence this is all I managed. But it still works well as you are cooking it long enough for any chunks to soften down.

Begin to fry the paste on a medium heat until very fragrant.

Prep for the Slow Cooker

 photo 338862c4-a515-4add-8295-0c476303a956_zps44a7e093.jpgOnce the paste is suitably fried, tip in your beef chunks. Continue to fry until sealed well. A good colour on the beef at this stage will ensure a richer coloured curry at the end.

Add in the coconut milk and stock, then transfer to your slow cooker pan.


 photo 960ee976-a0c7-4ac9-8264-23c97c68b726_zpsa73cf221.jpgCook on low for as long as possible, I think mine had six or seven hours. Stir every couple of hours, as I find coconut milk can stick slightly. Serve with rice and some green veg, garnishing with some coriander leaves. I also threw over a few peanuts for an added crunch.
 photo SlowCookerBeefRendang_zpsce9336e6.jpg

What’s your favourite cuisine? Do you like Thai? Ever made a slow cooker curry?