Wednesday, November 26, 2008

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If there was an Elizabeth Craig cult, I would be tempted to join. The other morning a parcel arrived, a book bought through eBay. 'Cooking in Wartime' was written in the 1940's. When I read the back cover I felt myself sit up straight and reach for a sensible pinny. "Are you worried?" it asked me. "Because the butter ration won't go far? Because your family will eat meat? Because the children need puddings and cakes, but the eggs make them so dear? Because you won't have enough sugar to make jam? Because you've got a dog to feed? Because fuel costs you more? LET THIS BOOK HELP YOU - It can take that load off your mind!" Ms Craig could be writing in 2008 and not 1941. She wants me to make satisfying tasty dishes from cheap rationed cuts. And who am I to say no? Ox cheek is being marketed in some supermarkets as a 'forgotten cut' which is an odd phrase a bit like 'heritage' vegetables. I went to the butchers to buy some. The butcher appeared to have come directly from central casting. He looked like an Enid Blyton butcher; round, red cheeked and wearing a striped navy and white apron. And when I asked for my ox cheek, small dimples popped out from his plump cheeks and he cooed at me approvingly."You won't be disappointed with this. All my older ladies love ox cheek." I left wondering whether I had now joined the ranks of the older ladies with their sensible shoes and quilted jackets, smelling of talcum powder. I shuffled home to make my ox cheek casserole. The butcher was right. Noone was disappointed. Freddie took a mouthful, smiled and asked, "Exactly which cheek on an ox is this from?" Then he gave the dish 10 out of 10. And Alex asked for the leftover portion to be out aside for her next school lunch. And I thought that Elizabeth would have approved of us. Alex walked off to school the following morning swinging her lunch box with its hot ox cheek casserole in a thermos flask. I leave you with her stirring words, "Never allow it to be said that we British women, whose job it was to cook in the war, failed at our post. Armed with wooden spoon, basin, and saucepan we'll keep the pots boiling whatever happens."

Ox Cheek Casserole

4 large carrots, scrapped and chopped

1 sweet potato, scrapped and diced

1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large leek, thinly sliced
1 tablespoons of olive oil
500g ox cheek, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tin butter beans
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 pint of vegetable bouillon or beef stock
half a teaspoon of dried oregano, thyme, rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon of cornflour
Salt and pepper to season
Trim and dice ox cheek. Prepare all the vegetables. Heat the oil and saute the onions, garlic and leeks for about 4 minutes. Add the ox cheek and brown for about 3 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, herbs,bay leaf, salt and pepper and bring the casserole until it just starts to boil and then turn heat down to simmer with the lid on. Place in the oven at 170C for around an hour. Check every now and again to make sure the casserole isn't becoming too dry. Add a little more stock if it is. After an hour, mix the cornflour with a few spoons of stock ( you can take this from the casserole itself) until it is smooth and add back to the casserole, stirring in to thicken it. Cook for another 30 minutes.


  1. This reminds me - when I was a young married mother I happened upon a cookbook called "The Penny Pinchers Cookbook". It was put out by the USDA and was aimed at helping women cook with subsidies (or not much at all). It was the most helpful, useful cookbook I'd ever owned. And you're right - 2008 seems to be heading into history as today's version of the war years.

    Great post Charlotte.

  2. In these ecomomic times we may see more and more stews, casseroles and soups on our menus:D When mom and dad emigrated to Canada in 1957 they gave up their ration cards which were still in place from the true...

  3. Great Big Veg challenge9:02 AM

    Stews are clearly the way forward Bellini V and Sally.
    Ox Cheek was only 2.99 per kilogram which means you can feed a large family nutritiously very easily. The children loved the meal - full marks.

  4. Great post, great recipe, I love ox tail, ox cheek, ox anything.

    Hope you are all well.

  5. Great Big Veg Challenge4:34 PM

    Thanks David - I like the idea of ox - sounds substantial doesn't it?
    And we are well thank you - CH

  6. With a 10/10 score from Freddie this must be a recipe to try.

    Have you tried Beef Skirt? - excellent in a slow cooked casserole or curry. A little goes a long way if you add lots of veg and the gravy is deeeeeelicious!!!!!


    PS: I Googled Elizabeth Craig - she wrote so many books!!!!

  7. I love ox cheek! Maybe because I grew up in Indonesia where we eat every part of every animal...? The book sounds both wonderful and informative, thank you for sharing that with us. Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. Magic Cochin it is a real hit - we have made it twice now - because the children loved it so much.
    I will ask for beef skirt next time too - i have already bought some pigs cheek!

    Jesse - what do you do with your ox cheek?

  9. I look forward to seeing what my local butcher makes of ox cheek.

  10. I'd still like the answer to Freddie's question before I try this one!!

    Great to have a posting we've missed the veg challenge and it's regular postings.


  11. Lindy - how are you...I think its the cheek on the face of the ox. At least that sounds more appetising...
    Supermouse - report back. I think he will be delighted to help you...

  12. Anonymous3:23 AM

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  13. DH had pork cheeks in Spain and loved them; I found the texture - unusual - tho it might have been mind over matter. I wonder if the cheaper cuts will now become fashionably expensive - I saw that Waitrose mag when in London last month.

    You have a cheeky son! (sorry, I couldn't resist!!)


We always love to read your comments - thank you