Slow Cooked Beef Cheeks with Salsa Verde

Winter is the perfect time to make full use of slow cooked meals, whether you have a slow cooker or not. Slow cooked meals are the perfect prepare ahead meal as they usually cook for many hours, meaning that the bulk of the work, which is usually very little, can be done in the morning, leaving very little to do just before dinner time.

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Beef cheeks are a delicious cut of meat and are quite affordable. They are rich, smooth, lean and tender when slow cooked. They used to be a whole lot cheaper before the demand for them increased with their use in restaurants. Beef cheeks are much better slow cooked than cooked any other way, and the salsa verde that is added at the end in this meal cuts through the richness of the sauce and the beef perfectly.

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Salsa verde, or ‘green sauce’, is a sauce that is made from a combination of herbs – parsley, basil and mint, as well as garlic, capers, anchovies, Dijon mustard, olive oil, lemon juice and red wine vinegar. The result is such a light fresh, flavoursome sauce that is so good with this beef, but also works extremely well with fish or potatoes.

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I’m sure you’re wondering, what about the kids, I bet they don’t eat it? Mark really enjoys this meal, except he’d prefer to not have the salsa verde, most likely due to the bite that the uncooked garlic provides. Claire is always a bit funny with meat, if it’s not mince, but she always eats a small amount and Elise is hit and miss, on one occasion, she loved the slow cooked meat and on another she wasn’t interested. Depending on your family, this may be a dinner that is better saved for the adults, but I like to get our kids to eat the food that we eat the majority of the time.

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I would usually serve these beef cheeks with mashed potato or parsnip, or a combination of the two, as well as some steamed greens.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

Serves 4-5

  • 375mL red wine – a heavier wine such as Shiraz or Cab Sav work well
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1kg beef cheeks
  • 1 brown onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • Zest of 1 orange, cut off in strips
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 tbs cornflour to thicken

Salsa Verde

  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley, loosely packed
  • 3/4 cup basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp baby capers
  • 1 anchovy
  • 2 tbs red wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Place the red wine into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for ~10 minutes to reduce the wine. Remove from the heat after 10 minutes.
  2. Heat a frypan, or crockpot (if cooking on the stove or in the oven), over medium heat and add the olive oil and the beef cheeks. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side to allow them to brown. Remove from heat.
  3. Place the onion in the frypan or crockpot and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to give it some colour, add the garlic and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
  4. Transfer the onion and garlic to the slow cooker or pot it will be cooked in and add the orange zest, bay leaves, thyme, stock and reduced red wine.
  5. Set the slow cooker to low and cook for at least 6 hours.
  6. If you are cooking on the stove top, cook, covered, over low heat for 3-4 hours or until the beef starts to fall apart. If cooking in the oven, cook, covered for 3-4 hours at ~140°C for 3-4 hours.
  7. While the beef is cooking, make the salsa by placing herbs, mustard, garlic, capers, anchovy and red wine vinegar in the small bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to chop the herbs. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and pulse a few times to combine. The salsa verde should not be completely smooth in consistency, so resist the temptation to over blend.
  8. After the 3-4 or 6 hours, depending on your cooking method, the beef should be very tender and starting to fall apart. At this point the liquid will still be quite thin.
  9. Remove 1 cup of liquid and add 2 tbs of cornflour to this 1 cup of liquid and mix to combine. Return this back into the slow cooker and mix gently to combine. This will help to thicken the sauce.
  10. Place the pot over low heat or increase the heat of the slow cooker and remove the lid and allow the liquid to bubble for around 5 minutes to help to further thicken the sauce.
  11. Serve the beef cheeks with mashed potato or parsnip and drizzle some salsa verde over the top.

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Slow Cooked Beef Pies

A wholesome, chunky, slow cooked pie makes the perfect dinner or weekend lunch, when the weather is cooler.

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It is so amazing how cooking a cheaper cut of meat for hours on end can turn into the most tender, flavoursome, melt in your mouth meal. Cheaper cuts of meat have higher levels of the protein collagen, which can be quite tough, but when slow cooked, the collagen is broken down into gelatin, which gives a much smoother mouth feel. I have used chuck steak for this this pie, but cuts such as skirt steak, gravy beef or shin would all work well.

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Homemade pies are well received in our household and the majority of the time the kids eat them without any fuss. These beef pies are rich and full of flavour and, if I must say so myself, one of the best pies I’ve tasted. If you wanted to add more veggies into this pie, potato or sweet potato would work well, as would some zucchini. I personally would prefer to leave it as it is and have a side salad for some extra veg.

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I have a pie maker, which makes the whole pie making process much simpler. It involves simply cutting out some pastry for the bottom, placing it in the pie maker, adding some filling and then adding the piece of pastry to the top. Think of a toasted sandwich maker but with a pie hole cut out and that’s what it is. It also meals that if you make more than you need for a particular meal, you can reheat the individual pies in the pie maker in about 5 minutes, rather than the best part of an hour in the oven, achieving perfectly crispy pastry every time. An investment well worth making!

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These pies can be made in a batch and frozen, then re-heated for another meal at a later date.

I hope you enjoy these pies as much as I do. xx

Ingredients:

Makes 6-7 small pies or 1-2 large pies

  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1kg chuck steak
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 large carrot, diced into 1cm cubes
  • 2 sticks celery, diced into 1cm cubes
  • 5 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 tbs plain flour
  • Puff pastry – 1 sheet for family sized pie, 6 sheets for individual pies
  • 1 egg yolk (for family sized pie)

Method:

  1. Heat a medium fry pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the steak and brown each side for 3-4 minutes. *If your slow cooker has a sear function, do this step in the slow cooker.
  2. Once browned, place beef into the slow cooker and add the vegetables, herbs, garlic, wine, tomato paste and stock. Mix as best you can to roughly combine. Turn slow cooker to low heat and cook for 7-8 hours, stirring once or twice during this time (stirring is not essential).
  3. Once the cooking time has lapsed, gently pull the beef apart and mix to spread evenly through the mixture.
  4. At this point, you may need to thicken the mixture slightly to make it more of a gravy. To do this, you can either add some flour or evaporate some of the liquid.
  5. To evaporate some of the liquid, you can set your slow cooker to a higher setting and remove the lid and allow it to simmer until the sauce thickens.
  6. To make it more of a gravy, take about 1/2 a cup of the liquid out of the slow cooker and place into a small bowl, add the 2 tbs of flour and mix to form a paste. Add the paste back into the bulk mixture and mix to combine.
  7. PIE MAKER: If you have a pie maker, turn it on and cut out the pastry circles, place the bottom piece of pastry in the pie maker, add ~1/2 a cup of filling and then add top piece of pastry. Repeat with remaining pies. Cook until pastry is crispy.
  8. OVEN: Turn the oven on to 200°C and prepare a pie dish. Place filling into pie dish and brush the rim of the dish with some egg yolk to help the pastry to stick. Drape the sheet of pastry over the top and trim around the edges. Brush the top with remaining egg yolk and place into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and puffed.
  9. The pies will keep well in the refrigerator for 2-3 days and will freeze well for up to 3 months.

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

With the weather starting to cool down again, I have pulled the slow cooker out for some wholesome, hearty meals that require very little preparation.

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I have only had a slow cooker for a few years and I really don’t know what I did before it.  I particularly find it very useful for the days that I am working, as I can get everything ready that morning or the night before and then turn it on before I go to work, then when we return home, not only does the house smell amazing, but dinner it ready – just like going to a restaurant, right!!??! 🙂 On the days that I work, I finish between 5-5:30pm, and by the time I pick the kids up from childcare and after school care, we don’t get home until around 6pm, and we like to have the kids in bed at 7pm, which leaves little time for meal prepping.

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Once I got home, I added the cannellini beans to the Moroccan Vegetable Stew while the kettle was boiling for the cous cous. Once the kettle boiled I cooked the cous cous, and while this was cooking, served up the stew (in which time the cous cous was pretty much done), topped with yoghurt, preserved lemon and coriander, so we were eating around 6:05pm. Win!

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The kids enjoyed this, which was great as it had a variety of vegetables and beans/legumes for a protein source. If you wanted you could definitely add some chicken or lamb to this at the start if you wanted it to be a meat containing meal.

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If you didn’t want to serve this with the quinoa, you could leave it out and have it as a soupy stew or with some fresh crusty bread to mop up the juice.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Serves 4-6

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 tbs ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/3 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 300g pumpkin, peeled and diced
  • 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1 tsp harissa
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 400g tin crushed tomatoes
  • 400g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • Quinoa, to serve
  • Natural yoghurt, to serve
  • Preserved lemon, finely chopped or squeeze of lemon juice, to serve
  • Fresh coriander leaves, to serve

Method:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, cinnamon, saffron, harrisa and turmeric and mix to combine.
  2. Into the slow cooker, place the onion, ginger, garlic, cauliflower, pumpkin, chickpeas, spices, honey, stock and tomatoes. Mix gently to combine, place the lid on the slow cooker and set to low and cook for 8 hours.
  3. When ready to serve, add the cannellini beans and spinach and mix to combine, allowing to cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Place the cous cous into a bowl, allowing ~1/3 cup of uncooked cous cous per person, and cover with equal amounts boiling water. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  5. Divide cous cous between bowls, top with the stew and serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt, lemon and coriander leaves.