We should probably start off by saying this is a rather naughty and indulgent dish. However, it is designed for comfort eating and when days are cold and grey, and most importantly, makes use of an underused cut – ox cheek. So, let’s not worry about the calories for the time being.
Braising steak is also used here but it’s the use of ox cheek that really elevates things, as it contains a certain amount of gelatin, which in turn helps to make everything extra unctuous and flavoursome.
The Mac ‘n’ Cheese really is the icing on the cake – or bake, as we should probably say. Cheese, pasta, beef braised in red wine and vegetables, yes, this is not for the faint-hearted.
But it is delicious.
Ingredients – serves 8
800g Ox cheeks, trimmed and cut into chunks
500 diced beef
25g plain flour, seasoned
Oil or dripping
8 rashers streaky bacon, sliced into lardons
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stick, diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
250g chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 bay leaf
1 Star Anise
1tbs tomato purée
250ml red wine
400ml beef stock
For the mac n cheese
25g plain flour
25g unsalted butter
150g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
100g Parmesan cheese, grated
1tbs Dijon mustard
Ground black pepper
400g Macaroni pasta
50g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
50g Parmesan cheese, grated
100g Mozzarella cheese, grated
50g Panko breadcrumbs
The beef braise is best done the day before, so begin by heating your oven to 140°C.
Next, dust the diced ox cheek and beef with the flour. Heat some oil or dripping in a large casserole on the hob and add the beef, to brown all over (you may have to do this in batches). Then transfer to a plate.
After that, add the streaky bacon and fry off briskly until crisp and the fat renders out – before adding the chopped onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Sweat down for about 10 minutes, then add the sliced mushrooms, bay leaf, star anise and tomato purée, and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Place the browned beef back on top of the vegetables and herbs and then pour over the red wine. Reduce and cook the wine off for a few minutes before adding the beef stock. Everything should be just covered.
Bring to a simmer, then cover with a lid and place in the oven for 3 hours – taking time to stir every now and then.
Once the meat is lovely and tender, leave to cool and place in the refrigerator overnight.
On day of cooking, take the pot back out and bring to room temperature and heat your oven to 180°C.
Start the cheese sauce by putting a saucepan on the hob over a medium heat and add the butter. Once it has melted, add the flour and stir with a whisk to form a roux. Once it is biscuit coloured, start adding the milk, bit by bit, and stirring all the while. Use up all the milk until a thick white sauce begins to form and then add the grated cheeses, Dijon and black pepper. Stir through to combine and keep warm.
Cook the macaroni in a saucepan of boiling water, timings according to instructions, and then drain and put that pasta back in the pan. Then pour over the cheese sauce and mix to combine.
Take a deep baking tray, approx. 30 x 20cm and spoon in all the ox cheek mix, making sure the surface is even. Then pour the macaroni pasta on top, again tapping everything down to level.
Place the tray in the oven for 10 minutes on the top shelf and then take back out and sprinkle with the mix of grated cheeses and Panko breadcrumbs.
Bake for a further 10 minutes before taking back out to serve.
Great with a crisp, green salad and garlic bread!