I love cooking with beef cheek, it’s such a rich and succulent cut that is perfect for slow cooking and matches nicely with the slightly tart flavour of these type of plums. It’s an easy dish to prepare that relies mainly on simply being left alone overnight, put in the oven and forgotten about until you are hungry for dinner. This type of dish is very happy served with a side of soft creamy polenta.
- 3 beef cheeks, approximately 200 g each, cleaned by your friendly butcher
- peel of one orange
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 6 Santa Rosa plums, cut in half, seeds removed
- 300 ml red wine
- 2 medium brown onions, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, roughly bashed
- 500 ml beef or chicken stock
- salt and black pepper
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Marinating time overnight
Place the beef cheeks in a container with the orange, fennel, rosemary and plums. Season with a nice amount of black pepper, pour over the red wine and let it sit overnight in the fridge. Disturb it a few times to turn your cheeks so both sides get some time in the wine.
The next day, take out the container with the beef cheeks and allow it to come to room temperature before you begin to prepare.
In a medium pan cook the onion and garlic down slowly until softened and beginning to caramelise.
Meanwhile remove the cheeks from the marinating wine and aromatics, add these to the onions before seasoning the cheeks with salt and gently searing on both sides in a separate pan. Once they get a little colour place the cheeks into a small baking tray.
Add the stock to the onion mix, bring to the boil and then combine it all in with your cheeks that are ready and waiting in your baking dish. Make sure you use quite a small baking vessel as ideally the cheeks will be in a single layer and completely covered with liquor.
Cover the dish with foil and place into an oven at 150°C for 2½ to 3 hours. Check it at 2 hours, your cheek should be very soft and feel succulent, use a knife to test, it should go through the cheeks very easily with no resistance.
Once they are cooked, remove the cheeks from the sauce, place them on a plate, cover with foil and leave in a warm spot. Place the braising liquor into a pan, gently keeping aside the plums, and reduce rapidly by about a half. This needs to happen quite quickly as if left too long your cheeks will start to go cold and begin drying out which would be very unpleasant.
To serve, slice or shred the beef cheek onto a large platter, spoon over the reserved plums and cover with some of the sauce. Add a nice drizzle of oil and extra seasoning to finish.
• Don’t worry if you can’t find this particular type of plum as you can easily substitute it with another although I do prefer one of the tarter varieties.
Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Suresh Watson. Medium Pebble bowl in colour plum from Mud.