Cheeky Cow! Salt Baked Ox Cheeks with a delicious Sage, Butter and Port sauce, plus a Slimming World version…

Ox cheek are lean, filling, richly flavoured and often overlooked.
Thankfully they have gained favour recently and have been used by top chefs and restaurants.
I am so pleased as they really are a great piece of meat.
Ox cheeks are generously grained, but low fat and a great option for slimmings and non alike.
They are best cooked low and slow, so are fantastic in stews and casseroles or braised in wine.

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Salt baking is  a method of covering food in the ‘dough’ which insulates, cooks gently and evenly, flavours and is a little bit different.

Many products can be salt baked and it works best with fish, lamb, most root vegetables and well most things really. My suggestion is give it a go and see what you like the best. I have been wanting to try salt baking for a while and thought the slow cooking care ox cheeks need would work for being salt baked. This is also a great slimming World cooking technique. It uses no fat or oil and if using lean cuts of meat this method is syn free.

Now I am serving this with a sage, port and butter sauce, which is not slimming world, but the flavours will just work so well. I am going to do a slimming world version of the sauce, do no not fear.

Sourcing ox cheek- I got mine from a local butcher whom I use frequently, I know the meat is grass fed (weather depending), free range and butchered correctly and hung well for depth of flavour. He is a proper old school butcher and I love going there. His knowledge on cooking the cuts is insightful and always correct. Unfortunately there is not a huge demand for cheek, so these were frozen, which I have no problem with. It is worth asking well in advance to see if they can source fresh though and it is important you know, for your own storage.
Never refreeze thawed from frozen foods without being cooked first.The cycle should be fresh, frozen, thawed, cooked , frozen. It should never be fresh, frozen, thawed, re frozen, thawed, cooked.

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Sage, is rich in antioxidants and important nutrients, such as vitamin K. In fact, sage has been considered somewhat of a wonder herb throughout history because of its wide range of uses in cooking and medicine.

Taking sage may help improve memory and information processing among people who suffer from mild memory loss from Alzheimer’s. It is also a fantastic anti inflammatory and can help with stomach pains, asthma, diarrhoea and excess sweating.

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Ingredients:
Serves 2- But the cheeks were huge, so I trimmed them to the same size,shape and weight and kept the offcuts for a stew to be made another day.

x 2 ox cheeks, fat trimmed, and trimmed down to around 400g each
x pinch pepper

Salt Crust
x 400g salt – I used 200g cheap table salt and 200g sea salt
x 400g plain flour
x 4 egg whites (keep yolks and make scrambled eggs for breakfast)
x a splash of water, dependant on what salt you use. just enough to bring the mix together to a dough/pastry texture.
x few sprigs of thyme

Port sauce
x 200ml port
x 50 g unsalted butter
x 1/4 bunch of sage, leaves picked and chopped

Slimming World Gravy
x 50 mls port
x 100mls water
x 2 teaspoons gravy granules
x1/4 bunch sage, chopped

Method:
Firstly to start, trim the ox cheeks. Get a very sharp knife and trim fat. If you are not comfortable doing this, ask your butcher to help. Pepper each side, then brown off the sides in a hot pan and set aside to cool.

For the salt crust, place all ingredients in a bowl and mix until the dough comes together, half mixture into a ball and flatten, wrap in clingfilm and pop in fridge for about an hour.
On a flour dusted surface roll out dough and place cheek inside, wrap up with dough, place on a baking tray and place in fridge for about an hour to firm up.
Heat oven to 180 degrees. place beef in crust into oven and cook at 180 for an hour, then turn oven down to 150 for 3 hours.
For the port sauce, place the butter into a saucepan and melt, add the post, heat on medium/high for 30 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half and is rich and sticky. Add the chopped sage and keep warm, on a low heat.
Slimming world version- Heat 50mls 3 syns of port, 100mls of water and mix in gravy granules 2 syns  to a thick gravy and add the chopped sage – this should do 2 portions, so 2 syns per potion. Or just have the ox cheeks with the vegetables and potatoes for a syn free extravaganza.

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On the side, I have gone with mashed potato, or if its going on a menu, potato puree, roasted carrots and wilted shredded cabbage.

Delicious, filling, rich and a real Winter treat!
Enjoy! Bake Love x