Beef cheeks in beer...

It's this time of the year. Cold, windy and wet November always requires some serious comfort food. It's the time of the year when we need some hearty, meaty dishes to keep us warm on the inside and nourish our bodies with some full, rich flavours, sauces and wintry vegetables. I always find myself craving big bowls of tender juicy meat in some deep sauce, which I can use for dipping my freshly baked bread into.

Beef cheeks are very cheap cuts of meat and so underestimated. They are the perfect choice for slow cooking dishes and their rich, beefy flavour goes very well with winter vegetables like turnips, carrots, onions, garlic, as well as plain potatoes.

This recipe was taken from a fantastic book "The Irish beef book" by Pat Whelan. I've made few simple changes, mainly to accommodate what I had in my kitchen, as well as the time frame I had to make this dish. I've marinated the cheeks for well over 12 hours (something close to 16 h) and used red ale beer (the cheapest one from the supermarket). The sauce is very thin but rich in flavour, you could thicken it with simple roux, but I didn't think it's needed - it was perfect for small pieces of my fresh baguette to soak up all this amazing brown liquid!
Please be patient and do give the beef cheeks at least 3 hours in the oven. Other than that waiting time, the dish is really uncomplicated and easy to put together, as it cooks almost all on its own!

How to make it...
- 1,5 kg beef cheeks, trimmed
- 2 medium onions, cut into bigger chunks (pieces about 2 cm x 2 cm)
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2 cm thick slices
- 2 white turnips (I used 1 large turnip), peeled and cut into cubes about 2 cm x 2 cm
- 1 garlic bulb, halved horizontally (I used 10 cloves, which I only peeled)
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- black peppercorns, about 7
- 500 ml beer (used red ale)
- 2 tablespoons oil (can be olive oil, rapeseed oil or sunflower)
- 1 l chicken stock

Put the beef cheeks in a large bowl with vegetables, herbs, peppercorns and beer and marinade in the fridge for few hours, or overnight preferably.
Preheat the oven to 140 C. Strain the beer and put aside. Season the cheeks in salt and pepper. Heat an ovenproof casserole dish, add oil and brown the cheeks all over. Remove and put aside. Reduce the heat and add the vegetables from the marinade. Cook for about 10 minutes until pale golden brown. Add back the herbs and reserved beer. Simmer until the volume has reduced by half.
Return the beef cheeks into the dish, add the chicken stock and bring up to simmer, cover and cook in the oven for minimum 3 hours. The beef will be ready when it's very tender.
Serve hot with bread or plain boil potatoes.


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