BEEF cheeks soaked overnight in herbs and port, then gently braised in a melange of smokey bacon and vegetables until fork tender. An adaptation of the classic beef stew or the French boeuf bourguignon, this robust yet delicate lip-smacking gravy is sweet with a punch of tang akin to caramelised char siew dipped into vinegary chilli sauce. This stew is a droolicious excuse to catch up with family and friends amidst a long-drawn pandemic!
Total Time: 4 hours
Serves: 8 persons
A: Meat, Condiments
1 kg (2-3 pieces) beef cheeks, whole, cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 leek, cut into 2cm (optional)
2 large white onions, peeled and each cut into eights
250g streaky bacon, cut into 1cm strips
50ml olive oil
B: Assorted Vegetables
500g, approximately 3 large carrots, peeled, cut into rounds
400g Swiss brown/white button mushrooms, quartered
500g or 1 large daikon/white radish, peeled and diced (optional)
C: Herbs, Port
Italian or Provencal dried herbs (assortment of dill, parsley, rosemary, thyme)
1 tablespoon Kampot pepper, coarsely crushed
500ml Ruby Port
2 tablespoons Japanese miso paste, white or red
1 teaspoon corn starch, if required, for thickening gravy
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Sprig of fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
Recipe follows after the video.
1. Soak beef cheeks overnight in ruby port in large mixing bowl. Add a generous sprinkling of Italian herbs. Marinate overnight.
2. The next day, fry bacon under low heat until brown in a large 26cm casserole pot, As it cooks, bacon will render lard.
3. Heat up a shallow frying pan over medium heat; pour in 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, fry garlic and onions until light brown. Add garlic and onions on top of bacon in the casserole.
4. Fry half the carrot in the pan, drizzling in more olive oil if pan dries up. As water in carrot evaporates, it will shrink slightly. Cook until edges of carrot turn brown, then add to the casserole.
5. Repeat for daikon.
6. Next, fry mushrooms, adding more olive oil as required. Fungi will shrink to half its original size when water is expelled. NOTE: Mushrooms contain high amount of water which will ooze out while frying.
7. Add leek if preferred — it will sweeten the stew. Pan-fry beef cheeks just enough to sear its surfaces. Transfer beef to casserole and turn heat up to maximum.
8. Pour in 375ml of ruby port. Retain remaining port for deglazing in Step 10.
9. When stew starts to boil, reduce heat to medium. Add miso paste.
10. Pour a dash of ruby port into frying pan. Reduce heat to low. Stir to deglaze oil in pan. Add this to casserole pot.
Add vinegar and stir it in. Cover and simmer for at least 1 hour before serving. NOTE: For a thicker sauce, stir in a slurry of cornflour (½ teaspoon mixed with 25ml water) in the stew while it is simmering.
11. For a robust, full-bodied stew, cook at least a day ahead of serving, allowing it to stand covered overnight on kitchen counter after it has cooled down.
The next morning, bring stew to a boil over low heat for 15 minutes. Repeat this twice during the day. Bring it to a boil once again right before serving. Taste and adjust seasoning if required. Garnish with fresh herbs.
12. Serve with crusty baguette, ciabatta or white rice. Open up a chilled bottle of Pinot Noir. A votre santé!
TIPS: If ruby port is a tad sweet, pour in 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar to give it an irresistible tang.
TECHNIQUE: While stew is cooking, alcohol in the wine oxidizes into acid – this process breaks down protein in the meat, tenderising it.
Photos: John Bo
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