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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. Had ours last night…delicious !! Many thanks for sharing the recipe Fiona

  2. When I cook ox cheeks in the slow cooker I layer the veg, slather the whole ox cheeks in any marinade/spice/herbs, put in liquid,not too much of it,cover the lot with folded baking paper then put on lid and cook.I cut the meat up once it has cooked for several hours.Seems to give the best results.Pork Hock ( if you can get it) slow cooked on apples and onions in cider is bloody good too.Duck breasts on apples,onions and a tiny bit of sage with orange zest on top and red grape juice …

  3. Tanya @ Lovely Greens

    Yum yum yum…this recipe looks like a keeper!

    PS – Dr Blood??

  4. I bet this is really good and comfortig. Perfect for a dark January night.

  5. Hang on …! Dr. Blood? You can’t just leave us like that!

    Huge fan of the slow cooker. It’s my most used piece of kitchen equipment. And, your’e right – almost always better the next day. I like this recipe and shall give it a try. (I might just leave out the flour, though. I do a beef bourgignon in a similar way, but the flour went a bit odd in the mix the first time I made it and as it didn’t add anything to the overall recipe, I’ve left it out ever since. Maybe I did something wrong?)

  6. Oh, I laughed!.. Was really getting into your descriptive writing about the ambience of a 1970’s bistro and then came the funny bit… and there always is one which is why I love reading your blogs. Dr Blood… how intriguing, Dr, or practising vampire?!
    Still loving the recipes, although I’m vegetarian, O.H. and kids x2 are not vegetarian, so get lots of inspiration from your posts. The leftover stilton broccoli and cauli soup has been a big hit since xmas, with plenty of the the ingredients going begging. Keep up the good work (and your compelling blog!) and hope the rats have set up home elsewhere! 😉

  7. suebeedoo

    Oh my this sounds delightful. Am going to ring my butcher now to see if he can bring some cheeks to the farmer’s market on Saturday. I don’t have a slow cooker, but this can sit in the bottom oven all day.

  8. Great post as usual….but I want to hear more about Dr Blood! Sounds like a real character or was he a phlebotomist?

  9. We really must be on the same wave length in my slow cooker is a stew of ox cheek, onion and a can of Mackeson stout and a sprinkle of salt nothing else and it is wonderful.

  10. Wow thanks Fiona you timed that recipe just right as I got a large tray of stewing beef from the CFC in Asda tonight so will use that in place of the ox cheek. I shall pick up a small baguette on my way back from the dentists so thats our evening meal sorted. Yum I can hardly wait.

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