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Recipe for slow cooked ox cheeks braised in herbs and beer: slow cooker/crock pot casserole

Beef in beer with cheesy croutons

Beef in beer with cheesy croutons

Beef in beer used to be a big hit in Bistros in London in the 1970’s. Although I ate out a lot in those days, I can’t remember actually sampling beef in beer.

All that I can recall now are hummus and taramasalata starters with slim cut warm pitta bread – still a favourite with me. And the noise of those places – high ceilings and wooden floors. People perched either side of converted sewing machine tables and the Moulin Rouge posters on the walls. Sweaty waiters in long aprons that deftly snaked between the tables. And above all the unmatched wobbly chairs that started to get uncomfortable when the coffe and mints were served at the end of the meal.

Back then, I rarely cooked at home. To be quite honest, I couldn’t really cook. Now we prefer to cook at home from scratch and save up for the occasional treat meal out. Well it was over thirty years ago that I regulary frequented those little bistros on the Fulham Road with my first serious boyfriend – Dr Blood.

Up until now I’ve always secretly thought why add beer to the casserole? Much better to savour a long chilled pint with the dish. Using beer seemed a waste of good grog to me. Recently I discovered that this long held supposition was completely wrong. The combination of beef and beer is superb – it produces a rich gravy with lots of mellow vumph.

You could use shin of beef for this recipe but I would recommend ox cheek. Ox cheek is much cheaper and, like all ‘recommended slow cooked’ cuts, imparts a much better, deeper flavour to the dish.

When I unwrapped my ox cheek I was worried that it was so hard to cut. But, like shin of beef, all the gristle that tests the sharpness of your kitchen knives and optimism slowly turns to jelly during the long cooking process. I combined the ox cheek with ox tail – as ‘bone in meat’ works so well in the slow cooker. The combination is quite delicious.

The Pièce de résistance were the croutons. These lifted the dish from a great casserole to a memorable, sublime feast. The croutons, crisp on the top and soaked with the beef juices beneath were unbelievably tasty and moreish.

Like most slow cooked casseroles, this dish was even tastier when allowed to get quite cold overnight and reheated the next day. It would be perfect posh supper party dish.

Slow cooked ox cheeks braised in herbs and beer

600g of oxtail
600g of ox cheek – chopped into 2”/5cm pieces
440ml of beer (I used Boddingtons as it’s very smoth)
Half a litre of hot beef stock
Half a tsp of dried thyme
Half a tsp of dried savoury
1 tsp of garlic granules, or one chunky garlic clove chopped very fine
1 tsp of balsamic vinegar
1 tsp of anchovy sauce or 1-2 anchovies chopped fine
1 large red onion – skinned and chopped
2 tbsp of seasoned plain flour
Salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste

Small baguette sliced diagonally into 1.5cm slices
French’s mustard
100g of gruyere cheese grated (expensive but well worth the investment)


Roll the chopped ox cheeks and ox tail in the flour and place in the bottom of the slow cooker. Add the chopped red onion, herbs, garlic, balsamic and anchovy sauce. Pour over the beer and top up with beef stock until the meat and onions are just covered and floating slightly.

Switch to high until the casserole is bubbling and then switch to low for 5-7 hours until the ox cheek is tender. Test after 5 hours and then every hour after that.

Slice the baguette diagonally. Spread one side with French’s mustard (or Dijon at a pinch and place the slices on a baking tray. Scatter the slices with finely grated gruyere and grill/broil under a high setting until the cheese is bubbling.

Serve the casserole on warm plates and garnish with a couple of croutons on each plate. Prepare for tumultuous applause.


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  1. cooked this a few weeks ago, beutifull flavour like the ox tail, and removed sinew b4 cooking , this time going for slower cook to Melt them this time !!

  2. I don’t eat lots of meat and am not brave enough to do this with the ox cheeks but will definitely try it with beef. Inherited a slow cooker years ago that I’m ashamed to say I have never even used. This is the perfect opportunity and I’m really looking forward to trying it. And like the others, am intrigued by Dr Blood …

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