750 mL red wine (like a cabernet sauvignon)
250 mL port
4 beef cheeks (about 1.5 kg), sinew removed (you can ask your butcher to do this to save time) and cut in half if large
2 onions, each studded with 1 whole clove
2 large carrots, cut into 1cm rounds
2 x 10cm pieces of celery
4 garlic cloves, bruised
1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 3 thyme sprigs and 3 flat-leaf parsley sprigs tied together with kitchen string)
4cm strip of orange zest
1 tbsp olive oil
150g speck or pancetta, cut into lardons
salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tbsp cognac or brandy
2 tbsp tomato paste
1L beef or veal stock
Bring the wine and port to the boil in a saucepan and simmer for 5–8 minutes to cook off the alcohol. Cool to room temperature. Place the beef cheeks, clove-studded onions, carrot, celery, garlic, bouquet garni, orange zest and cooled wine mixture in a large plastic container or glass bowl, cover and marinate overnight in the fridge.
Remove the cheeks from the fridge one hour before cooking. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Remove the beef cheeks from the marinade and pat dry with paper towel. Heat the oil in a deep ovenproof sauté pan over medium–high heat. Add the speck or pancetta lardons and sauté until golden, then remove from the pan. Sear the beef cheeks, in batches, ensuring they are well browned on each side. Season the meat with salt and pepper and remove from the pan.
Strain the marinade, reserving the vegetables, bouquet garni, orange zest and liquid. Add the vegetables to the pan and cook over medium–high heat for 5–8 minutes until slightly coloured. Return the beef with its juices and the lardons to the pan, add the cognac or brandy and ignite with a match or lighter to flambé. Allow the flames to subside, then add the bouquet garni, orange zest and tomato paste. Mix to coat everything in the paste. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and stir continually for 1–2 minutes.
Pour the reserved marinade liquid into the pan and stir to deglaze. Bring to the boil, skimming off any impurities that rise to the surface. Add the stock, place a cartouche (a piece of baking paper cut to the size of the pan) on top and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Transfer to the oven, cook for 1 1⁄2 hours, remove from the oven and turn the meat. Return to the oven and cook for a further 1 1⁄2 hours, or until the meat is very tender and almost falls apart.
Remove the meat, speck and carrot from the pan, place in a shallow platter and cover with foil. Strain the sauce and discard the onion, celery, bouquet garni and orange zest. Transfer the pan to the stovetop and, over medium–low heat, simmer for 25–30 minutes until the sauce has reduced by two-thirds and is rich in colour. Pour the sauce over the meat and carrot. Serve with creamy mashed potato or pasta.
- The longer you marinate the beef the better the layers of flavour will be. I like to marinate for 2–3 days before cooking.
- If you are unable to find beef cheeks, any stewing beef is a great substitute. Try gravy beef, blade or chuck steak.