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Cheeky Beef in Hoisin

August 28, 2015


I’m telling you; brown food does not photograph well! You will just have to trust me when I tell you that this recipe is a great one! I notice that my recent recipes have had an Asian bent – I didn’t intentionally do this –perhaps I will have to convince my husband to take me to Europe for some required inspiration but I think my posts have evolved this way because I have been feeling a bit lazy; and indeed, these recipes of late, are very easy – ones you can do on auto-pilot; whack ’em on and “forgetaboutit” recipes. So here’s another!

Traditionally I stay away from bottled sauces and make my own. But I did just say I have been very lazy lately and the most popular sauce we have in the house – when I seldom buy it – is Hoisin. Find out more about it here.

By choice, my kids would slather hoisin sauce on everything. It ranks higher than mayonnaise or tomato sauce or BBQ sauce, hands down! And needless to say, just like the aforementioned sauces, I’m sure it’s popular because it is sweet!

Based on fermented soy beans, hoisin can be overpowering and bottled hoisin sauce (off the shelf) is very strong. I would never use it straight. If using as a dipping sauce always dilute it with a dash of water – a good secret is to dilute it with a little milk (any kind) which will soften the flavour and surprise you!

I do prefer my homemade version but if you’re feeling lazy like me (or busy), pick up a jar* and make this warming winter dish while it’s still winter!

I have made this dish with both casserole steak and beef cheeks and the beef cheeks were the winner according to the H.C.V.C. (household culinary voting committee). I think that lamb shanks would also work really well. Use what ever cut you prefer, but the sinewy, fattier meats will breakdown and create a richness that is unbeatable. The turnip and water chestnuts add a lovely contrast in texture too.

Don’t be put off by beef cheeks. They are rarely found fresh and are usually cryovac’d by the butcher, directly from the beast. Despite my aversion to food in plastic, cryovaccing; the practice of vacuum-sealing in heavy gauge plastic, is a useful method for preserving fresh meat without freezing, and allowing it to age without losing weight. Most of the meat that you get in the supermarket has previously been processed this way and repacked. These days, very few butchers buy fresh whole sides of beef and cut meat from the hanging carcass as there is too much labour and waste. That’s why it’s a good idea to find a good local butcher, who preferably stocks grass-fed meat, but that’s a post for another time!

If you haven’t cooked beef cheeks before, let me warn you: they are pretty ugly! And big! Unless you have a butchers band saw, don’t try to chop them up, they are full of sinew and connective tissue.  I just halve them and put them in the slow cooker as is. I use 2 – 3 cheeks in this recipe which weigh together, between 1 & 1.5 kgs. After 4 to 5 hours they will be melty and soft and gelatinous. They are worth it!

On a side note: isn’t it both wonderful and crappy that these old-fashioned cuts are available. Wonderful; because they are much more widely available and they are so nutritious and utilise more of the beast – but crappy; because these cuts USED to be CHEAP! CHEAP! Not long ago I used to pay $1.99 per kilo for beef cheeks and now I’m paying $8.99! Oh well, they are still an inexpensive cut compared to leaner cuts. Rant over..

2 knobs ginger

3 cloves garlic

20g oil

1 stick cinnamon

1 star anise

1 teas sichuan peppercorns (or ½ teas black peppercorns)

1 big piece of fresh mandarin peel – about palm sized

500g beef stock

100g rice wine

150g hoisin sauce

1.2kg beef cheeks, cut in half

1 turnip or potato

200g water chestnuts, whole or sliced, drained

Mince the garlic & ginger in the TM on SP 9 for 10 seconds. Scrape down the bowl and add the oil and sauté for 2 minutes at 100°C, SP 1.

Add the spices & peel, stock, wine and hoisin sauce and cook for 4 minutes at 100°C on SP 1 REVERSE.

Place the raw beef cheeks in the slow cooker bowl and cover with the marinade. Cook on high for 4 hours, then add the vegetables and cook for another hour or so.

Garnish with some finely sliced spring onion and serve with rice or cauliflower rice.

*Just check the label: very few commercial varieties that have any soy beans in them at all. Most named sugar as the main ingredient with wheat starch coming in second. Hoisin should typically include fermented soy, chillies and garlic. Vinegar, salt and sugar are also commonly added.


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