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Martin Bosley's recipe of the week

Slow cooked beef cheeks smoked eel and young carrots

Slow-cooked Beef Cheeks, Smoked Eel, Young Carrots and Celeriac Purée

Martin says “I sometimes think the phrase 'slow-cooked' is a much better description for braising, because it evokes images of extremely tender and tasty meat. Richly satisfying, slow cooking is true cooking and it shows the skill of a cook to full advantage. Visit your local butcher to obtain the beef cheeks for this recipe - and even if he has to get them in for you, it will still be well worth the effort. If cheeks are unavailable, this recipe works just as well with oxtail, brisket, shanks or shoulder. You want meat with plenty of connective tissue that will dissolve into gelatine, as this is what makes slow-cooked meat so succulently moist and fork-tender. Always sear the meat first to caramelise it. This adds complex roasted flavours to the dish and gives the stock a deeper colour. (Contrary to popular opinion, searing does not seal in any juices.) In this dish, I use the smoked eel like bacon to impart a beautiful smoky aroma - it even looks like bacon. The vegetables that are cooked with the beef may also be served with the meal, but as they have contributed all their flavour to the stock, it's better to cook some fresh vegetables just before serving. As with the carrots, you can add a little spice - in this case cardamom, which brings more fragrance than taste to the dish. The beef cheeks can be done two to three days in advance, and then reheated with the sauce and vegetables in a covered pan in an oven heated to 160 degrees. When cold, the cheeks resemble small rocks, but they are easy to slice. Once reheated, they quickly become soft and tender."

Ingredients / Serves 6

6 whole beef cheeks
30ml olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 litre red wine
4 cloves garlic
8 shallots
1 medium onion, sliced
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1 cm think slices
6 star anise
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
400ml beef stock
200g button mushrooms
200g smoked eel, cut into 1 cm cubes
optional: 18 young carrots, peeled to serve
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp cardamom pods

Celeriac Purée

1 large celeriac, peeled and diced
2 bay leaves
600ml milk
1 tbsp unsalted butter
salt and freshly ground black pepepr
fresh thyme for garnish


Heat the oven to 160 degrees. Trim the excess fat from the beef cheeks. Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan and brown the cheeks on all sides until nicely caramelised. Lift them from the pan and drain on absorbent paper. Season generously with salt and pepper. Pour the wine into the frying pan and bring to a rapid boil for five minutes. Place the garlic, shallots, onion and carrots in a roasting dish suitable for stovetop use, then arrange the cheeks on top. 

Tie the star anise, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns in a piece of muslin and add to the dish. Pour in the wine and stock. Bring the contents of the pan to a simmer on top of the stove and cover with a piece of baking paper. Cover this with tinfoil. Place in the oven and cook for two hours. Remove the dish from the oven and carefully fold back the foil and paper. Add the mushrooms, then replace the cover and return the dish to the oven for another 45 minutes.

Remove the cheeks from the cooking stock while they are hot - do this carefully as they will be very delicate. Allow them to cool, then slice thickly. Strain the stock and you can either discard the vegetables or chop into smaller pieces to be served with the meat. Discard the bag of herbs and spices. Pour the cooking stock back into a clean saucepan and simmer until it has reduced by half to make a rich sauce. Add the smoked eel and the cheeks and the cooking vegetables, if using.

To make the purée, place the celeriac, bay leaves and enough milk to cover the celeriac in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes until the celeriac is tender. Strain the celeriac, reserving the milk but discarding the bay leaves. Put the celeriac into a food processor and blend until smooth, adding the butter and just enough milk to make a velvety purée. Season lightly.

Place the carrots in a frying pan with the butter and the cardamom pods and cook for five minutes or until tender.

To Serve

Place a spoon of purée on each place and top with spoonfuls of the cheeks, eel and sauce. Arrange three carrots around each place and sprinkle with fresh thyme if desired. 

Wine match


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