Ox cheek is perhaps one of our favourite cuts to cook low and slow, as the magic collagen that permeates this particular cut of beef dissolves to gelatine during the process and makes for a soft, buttery, oleaginous bite once finished.
Couple that with some quick and easy cheesy polenta, some earthy mushrooms and salty bacon - along with a rich and indulgent red wine sauce - and this is really going to hit the spot at this time of year.
You might even say that since the clocks have now gone back and the evenings have got just that little bit darker, this is the perfect dish to help light things up.
Speaking of which, this would not be a bad shout to serve on Bonfire Night this coming Sunday - especially if you are hosting a party at home.
You know, get people going and all warmed with some proper ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaaahs’ out in the back garden.
Before the real fireworks commence.
Ingredients - serves 4-6 people
1.5kg ox cheeks
50g beef dripping
100g plain flour
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped,
2 onions peeled and roughly chopped,
1 head of celery chopped
1 head of garlic peeled and chopped
1 bottle (750ml) red wine
1 small faggot of herbs (thyme, rosemary and bay)
1 litre beef stock
1 litre chicken stock
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper
50g unsalted butter
10 whole shallots, peeled
100g Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
For the polenta
200g quick-cook polenta
500ml chicken stock
250ml whole milk
80g unsalted butter
100g Parmesan, roughly grated
100g Cheddar, rough grated
Place the ox cheek into a bowl, cover with the wine and clingfilm, and refrigerate overnight.
On the day of cooking, heat the oven to 160°C and remove the ox cheeks and pat dry. Then put the wine into a large pot or casserole and reduce by half.
Now add the stock to the wine and bring to a gentle simmer.
Next, heat the dripping in a pan, combine the flour and salt and pepper in a bowl and coat the ox cheeks before frying in the dripping until browned all over and then add the oxtail to the simmering stock
Fry the vegetables (add some more dripping if necessary) until golden and add to the stock, plus the faggot of herbs and place in the oven for to gently braise for 3 hours.
Remove from the oven and drain the stock into a pan through a sieve, pressing the vegetables down to extract as much flavour as possible and cover the ox cheeks with foil to keep warm.
Take half the butter and place into a frying over a medium heat and add the shallots, gently frying until golden all over. Then add the shallots to the stock and reduce over a medium heat until thickened to desired consistency, skimming the surface constantly.
Prepare the polenta by adding the stock, milk, half the butter and a good pinch of salt and pepper into a saucepan and place on a medium to high heat.
Bring to a gentle simmer and turn the heat down to low and slowly pour in the polenta in, whisking all the while.
Carry on whisking for two to three minutes more, or until the polenta is cooked and the mixture is still quite wet and loose.
Add the cheese and remaining butter and stir to combine and keep the polenta warm.
To finish, fry off the mushrooms and pancetta in a pan for 10 minutes with a touch of oil, until everything is cooked and slightly crisped up. Stir through the last of the butter from the main ingredients into the ox cheek sauce for some extra gloss.
To plate, spoon some of the polenta into the middle of the bowl and place an ox cheek on top to the side. Drizzle over some of the rich beef stock and shallots on top, followed by a scattering of the crispy mushrooms and bacon, and serve.
NB: Depending on the size of the ox cheek, you can cut it into portions. Or better still, pull them apart and shred slightly for even distribution!