The Mexican beef was made unctuous and meltingly gelatinous by using the often-marginalized beef cheek.
By Helena Berthon
Marinated in a medley of authentically Mexican spices, and braised slowly in beef stock and lime juice, the meat became dark and deeply savoury, developing an umami-like quality.
- 1.2 kg beef cheeks
- 1 dried red chilli
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1½ tsps instant espresso powder
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsps ground cumin
- 1½ tbsps natural peanut butter
- 4 tbsps olive oil (2 tbsps for the marinade, 2 tbsps for frying the beef cheeks)
- 1½ tbsps honey
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 handful fresh coriander, plus more for serving
- 1 cup beef stock
- 3 limes
- Clean and trim the beef cheeks. Cut them into large (2 inch) chunks. Put them in a container in which you can marinate them.
- Rehydrate the dried red chilli in a little hot water, just enough to cover it. Combine all (including the chilli and it’s water) the ingredients apart from the beef stock and limes in a food processor, and whizz until you have a paste. Pour the paste all over the cheeks and mix so that they are completely coated. Leave to marinate in the refrigerator for several hours or, better yet, overnight.
- When it is time to cook, heat the oven to 140°C and heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottomed casserole over a medium heat. Brown the chunks on all sides. Use the stock to rinse the rest of the marinade into the casserole, then squeeze in the juice of the limes.
- Braise for about 3½ hours, giving the cheeks a stir once or twice while they cook. If the liquid dries up, add a bit more stock.
- When the cheeks are fall-apart tender, use two forks to pull the meat apart in the pan so that it mixes in with all the fatty juicy goodness.
- Serve in fresh corn tortillas.