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Mrs Beeton’s braised ox cheeks

I’m not a big eater of offal, but I do believe that if an animal is to be killed for its meat, then every part should be used. Having tried, and thoroughly enjoyed, ox cheeks at The Pelham Arms a year or so ago, I decided that they would make a good entry-level offal dish for me to cook. My decision to swop the supermarket meat counter for my local butcher has given me the opportunity to try more unusual cuts of meat like this. My hope is that by broadening the range of meats that I consume, and by limiting the amount of it I eat each week, I will become a thriftier, more conscientious cook.

I picked up two ox cheeks from the butcher on Friday (I pre-ordered on Wednesday) along with 1.5kg of beef bones and a pig’s trotter, split in half. The cheeks cost just over £7, not quite as cheap as I anticipated, but you get a lot of lean, tender meat for that, enough for four. The bones and trotter were free of charge. On Saturday morning I turned to Mrs Beeton’s How to Cook, edited by Gerard Baker, for her recipes for jellied beef stock and braised ox cheeks.

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I adapted the stock recipe because I don’t have a stockpot big enough to hold the required 5kg of bones. I used dried porcini in place of fresh mushrooms and port in place of red wine. Because I wanted to cook the cheeks the same day as the stock, I strained off about 400ml of stock after about six hours cooking and left the remainder to linger for the full twelve. The beef stock – made with a pig’s trotter – is super rich and delicious. I intend to use what’s left to make a proper French onion soup.

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I braised the ox cheeks in the Rayburn for four hours and they came out melt-in-the-mouth soft. The gravy – flavoured with carrot, leek, celery, tomato purée, port, allspice berries and cloves – was strained and reduced before serving, and was one of the fruitiest, glossiest, most flavoursome that I can remember making. I served the ox cheeks with green cabbage sautéed in butter and Maris Piper mash. Shared with my best friends, the meal inspired much praise, and then we all sunk into a deep, ‘meat-coma’ sleep. I’ll definitely be cooking this again.

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My local butcher is Frank Richards & Sons, 25 Western Rd, Lewes, BN7 1RL

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About Chloe King

I'm a freelance writer, designer and webby type. I live with my husband and daughter in the south of England. I like to cook and can throw a good party.

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