I’ve been drilling through Masterchef Pro on BBC, and had been admiring how the cooks are able to make something wonderful out of nothing. Courage and Confidence, I observed. Be bold.
Skip ahead, the butcher at Tesco, a feast of alternatives. What haven’t I tried, wouldn’t I try to cook. Fats, offal, trimmings….ah, cheek. Cool. I buy a happy half-kilo of oxen, along with the makings for a Tomato Tagliatelle, just in case…
…and score Double Points at check-out. I’m on a roll.
Jump forward: I’m on a stool in the kitchen, a glass of wine, thumbing the recipes for ox. ’never seen a recipe start like this one:
I am a cheek man. Pig, cow, skate, doesn’t matter to me, its cheeks are the nuggets I most adore. They appeal to my lazy side, being easily portionable and neat, and they appeal to my Yorkshire side, being cheap.
In the panoply of meat cuts, ox cheeks are among the finest – outrageously flavoursome, spectacularly gelatinous (and thus most gleefully slow-cooked), and extraordinarily handsome. So handsome you could bung a creepy old man wig and mid-90s rocker beard on one and call him Brad Pitt.
It would be a weird thing to do.
I take a good swig of wine and pour a generous portion of the rest over the meat. I take out the days frustrations on the chopping board while the ox bathes: carrots, onions, green beans, herbs, chilis (from our plant, thriving in my window), lots and lots of garlic.
I gather everything expectantly and launch into the second section of the recipe.
Brown, sauté, sweat: it all proceeds nicely. Decant everything into a pot, add the marinade and stock. Bake in a slow oven for four hours.
I glance at the clock, already striking 10 pm. Not a good sign for eating this evening (and too late to start the Tagliatelle). I give the oven a goose for 20 minutes to warm things through, then drop the temp and head to bed.
Remarkably, everything is firm, flaky, rich with flavour, just as the recipe promised. I add the tomato to the stock, reduce a little, and pour it all into a bowl. It makes enough for, well, one meal.
Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly, notes the Guardian, awarding the humble ox a place on it’ top ten slow cooked dishes. I’m not sure that it’s anything that could be sped up.
But it works very well, given its own time. No ‘tongue in cheek’ jokes needed.