Saturday 18 June 2011

Ox Cheek Ragu

Studying Architecture meant that I had to live as a poor student for a number of years, which, in turn, meant that I spent years trying to source cheap ingredients to fill my stomach. In fairness, for the first year or so the cheap ingredients involved sharing the Sainsbury's chicken lasagna with friends or camping in the Chinese eat-all-you-want buffet restaurant. It really is no wonder that I put on weight the moment I set foot on this island.

When I moved to Oxford with my husband a few years ago, my pallet had been trained for a few years, and I was now shopping at the butchers, green-grocers as well as Sainsbury's for my cheap ingredients! On one of my trips to the butchers (M. Feller Son & Daughter) I asked about some of their cheaper cuts, instead of just getting mince every time. She recommended the ox cheek and suggested I slow-cook it in the oven. That afternoon I went home, chopped some onions, added the ox cheek, some spices, water and tomato and cooked it in the oven for 2 hours or so. It came out a treat! Ever since I have been cooking this recipe fairly regularly - with minor alterations, depending on moods and ingredients - and it is always a success.

Serves 2 very hungry people or 4 people with normal appetites

600 g ox cheek (2 cheeks approx)
1 large onion, finely chopped
200 ml of water OR red wine OR stock (depending on how rich you want the sauce) - I used wine this time
350 ml tomato passata
1 bay leaf
1 stick of cinnamon
handful of finely chopped parsley

Cut the ox cheek in 3cm cubes and add to an oven proof casserole dish along with the chopped onion. Pour over the 200ml of water/wine/stock, add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, salt and pepper and put in a low temperature oven (150 degrees) for one hour. After that take out of the oven, add the tomato passata and return to the oven for a further hour and a half to two hours. Finally remove from the oven, take the pieces of meat out of the sauce and shred (they should be so tender that they fall apart). Once shredded return to the sauce and add the chopped parsley. You can serve with pasta as a sauce or use as a base for cottage pie. If it is your first taste of ox cheek I am pretty sure you will be converted! x

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