Ox Cheek Soup Portuguese Style

This soup at its heart is reminiscent of old Portugal, take a cheap cut of meat add it to the pot for a long time along with some beans, towards the end add the vegetables, serve it with fresh bread for an inexpensive stratifying filling soup.  Here I have made it with my own twist of adding cumin seeds to the oil in order to add a light fragrance to the stock, obviously it’s optional.  I have made it using estrugido also known as refogado, the base of most country meals in Portugal.  Estrugido is the same as the Italian soffritto or the French mirepoix, only instead of a celery and carrot it will be an onion and tomatoes and maybe garlic.  The reason for estrugido is to add a layer of flavour to the dish.  Plain rice to serve alongside dishes made the Portuguese way with estrugido is delicious.

I may seem to add more steps than necessary to make a frugal soup but the result is having a stock, the basis of the soup, which is deep with meaty flavour as if French brown stock has been added to it.  You could replace the cheeks with equally delicious chin of beef, it would be excellent if they came with the bone, adding the marrow to the stock.  A third choice would be feather or flank steak.  I do not think the beef normally sold as “stewing steak” or “braising steak” has enough gelatinous tissue in them to add the depth of flavour the others do.

My dear daughters this is the kind of dish to have up your sleeve for university living.

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For this soup I had 3 cheeks weighing 1kg.

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Cut away any silvery tissue on the meat, it will not cook down and it’s not edible.

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In a very large pan, stock pan size, add the cumin seeds to the fat and heat them for a minute until the seeds start to release an aroma, add the bay leaf and chopped onion and soften it on low heat for 7-10mins.  Add the chopped garlic and stir it in for one minute.  Add the tomato puree and stir it in well for a few seconds.

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Add enough water to cover well, about  1 1/2 cups, and let this reduce, should take less than 10mins, reducing enough to see the onions again as the photo above on the right shows.

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Add the cheeks cut into large chunks.  If you have the time brown them first, to save time brown the cheeks whole, once browned cut them.  Add 1 litre (4 cups) of water, salt, pepper, paprika, carrot chopped (flavour).  You could also add soaked dry beans at this stage, a cup/mug full.

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Boil slowly with the lid on for 2 1/2 hrs or until the meat comes apart with your hands.  Remove the pieces of meat and put them aside to cool down while you get on with chopping the vegetables for the soup.  Add the vegetables to the pot, top pan with water to cover vegetables well, bring to slow boil.  Check for salt.  Cook until the vegetables are done to your liking, if cut small they should be done in 10mins.  If you want to thicken the soup, squash a few of the cooked potatoes.

Break the meat with your fingers into pieces or cut it with a knife, if you have fussy family members like I you can also at this point remove any fatty bits.  When the vegetables are done add the meat back in, heat it through for a minute and serve.

ox cheek soup 1

 

Ox Cheek Soup Portuguese Style
Author: 
 
8-10 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 kg / 2.2 lbs (about 3 cheeks)
  • 2 tablespoons of fat; vegetable oil, beef dripping
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds - optional
  • 1 very large onion or 2 medium size, chopped
  • 1 large or 2 small bayleaf
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • 2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, freshly crushed (if feeding for small children leave it out and adjust pepper at the end)
  • 1½ - 2 teaspoons of salt
For the vegetable part of the soup:
  • 500-700g / 1.1 - 1.5 lbs of potatoes, cut into cubes (waxy potatoes will stay more intact)
  • 700g other vegetables of your choice, cut into small pieces. I had; 1 cauliflower, ½ large cabbage, 4 large carrots
Instructions
  1. In a very large pan, stock pan size, add the cumin seeds to the oil and heat them for a minute until the seeds start to release an aroma, add the bay leaf and chopped onion and soften it on low heat for 7-10mins. Add the chopped garlic and stir it in for one minute. Add the tomato puree and stir it in well for a few seconds. Add enough water to cover well, about 1½ cups, and let this reduce, should take less than 10mins, reducing enough to see the onions again as the photo above on the right shows.
  2. Add the cheeks cut into large chunks. If you have the time brown them first, to save time brown the cheeks whole, once browned cut them. Add 1 litre (4 cups) of water, salt, pepper, paprika, carrot chopped (for flavour). You could also add soaked dry beans at this stage.
  3. Boil slowly with the lid on the pan for 2½ hrs or until the meat comes apart with your hands. Remove the pieces of meat and put them aside to cool down while you get on with chopping the vegetables for the soup. Add the vegetables to the pot, top up the pan with more water to cover vegetables well, bring back to the boil. At this point adjust the salt if necessary, cook until the vegetables are done to your liking, if cut small they should be done in 10mins.
  4. Break the meat with your fingers into pieces or cut it with a knife, if you have fussy family members like I you can also at this point remove any fatty bits. When the vegetables are done add the meat back in, heat it through for a minute and serve.