Every week, I make a menu for the next seven days and I make my shopping list from that list. I tend to stick to the list as much as possible, which is difficult when Drew comes with me, because somehow, packets of cookies, ice cream and snacks always sneak their way into the trolley. Also, when the farmers' market is in town, I'm often forced to do some major re-thinking.
One of the things I Love about the grocery store I frequent, besides the awesome customer service, is their butcher's counter. There's always a great selection of different and interesting things, including several 'forgotten' or cheaper cuts, which often makes me revise my menu a little. Partly because the price of these cuts can save a few quid, but also, it's fun to try something a little different and see what new and interesting textures can be achieved with different animal body parts.
This week, I had put shredded beef tacos down for Thursday, and was planning on using some beef chuck, but when I got to Waitrose, they had some ox cheeks for £4.32 per kilo (about $2.95 per lb) so I decided to give them a go.
This is a slooooooooow cooking recipe, which could definitely be done in a crock pot or slow cooker while you're at work instead of the oven, but I wouldn't skip the searing bit at the beginning, as it adds lovely flavour.
Ox Cheek and Black Bean Tacos
serves 4, Takes 30 minutes prep, 5 1/2 hours cooking time
900g (2 lbs)- approx 2- ox cheeks
1 medium onion, sliced
5 dried arbol chillies
1 ancho chilli, soaked for 5 minutes in boiling water, then thickly sliced.
2 cloves garlic, sliced
handful coriander (cilantro) stems
500ml (pint) good chicken stock
juice and zest of 1 lime
2 tsp coriander seeds
Cooked black beans
Fresh pico de gallo*
Turn the oven on to 140C (290F) and heat a little lard or veg oil in a heavy bottomed skillet or frying pan over a med-high heat.
Season both sides of the cheeks well with salt and pepper and add to the hot skillet, leaving alone for a few minutes before turning and frying for another couple on the second side. When you have a nice brown colour on both sides, remove from the heat and set aside for a few minutes.
Add a little more oil to the pan and add the onions and garlic. Fry for a few minutes, until they begin to soften, then add the chillies, coriander seeds and stalks, stock and lime zest and juice. Bring to a simmer, then add the cheeks back to the pan and turn off the heat. Cover the pan tightly with foil and put in the oven for 5 1/2 hours, removing at 2 hours to make sure there's still liquid and to turn the meat over to finish cooking on the other side.
After 5 1/2 hours, remove from the oven and move the pieces of meat to a plate, discarding the cooking liquid and aromatics. Use a couple of forks to pull the meat apart into loose shreds, this will take very little effort, as all the connective tissue will have melted and the meat will be as soft as velvet. Taste the meat to check for seasoning, sprinkling over a littlesalt if need be.
Heat a non-stick frying pan over a med- high heat with a little more oil or lard and when nice and hot, add the meat to the pan. Leave for a couple of minutes, allowing the beef to get some crisp edges, before turning a little and frying much of the meat in the pan well.
Serve on warmed flour tortillas with black beans and pico de gallo.
For the pico de gallo:
De-seed three ripe tomatoes and chop into a small dice.
Chop half a red onion, and a large handful of fresh coriander.
De-seed and finely chop a fresh green chilli.
Mix together well with a few pinches of salt and the juice of a lime.