Red wine and beef seem to be very compatible, and not just for drinking. Beef cheeks are the facial cheek muscle of a cow. They may look ugly but the meat is lean and tender once it is slow cooked in liquid, and in this case wine and marsala.


Some cooks marinade cheeks in red wine overnight; this will intensify the dark colour and the wine flavour of the final dish. In this recipe wine is added as part of the cooking liquid; the rich taste will still come through so I do not think that the marinade is necessary.

Most Italian recipes suggest using a strong red wine, some also add Marsala (dry). The French do the same and if you have Movida Rustica (Spanish cuisine) by Frank Camorra (the cook) and Richard Cornish (the writer) you will notice that Frank adds Pedro Ximenez sherry to his recipe.

Whether cooked in Italy, France, or Spain the choice of herbs used are the same: bay leaves, rosemary, thyme or sage. Onions, carrots and celery seem to be the common ingredients for what the Italians call the odori (smells), these are the basic vegetables which add ‘smell’ and taste to basic broths and stews.I also added thinly cut orange peel to mine; I do this often with braises.

This dish is so easy. I went out while it was cooking. When I returned I braised some fennel and boiled some potatoes. Polenta and mashed potatoes take a bit more time to cook, but soak up the juices even better.

There were 4 of us.

2-3 beef cheeks
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 onion, sliced roughly
2 stalks of celery, sliced
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup dry marsala
1 cup red wine,

2 cloves of garlic (optional)
orange or tangello peel from one citrus, thinly cut, no pith
several fresh bay leaves, sage or thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper

Remove any offending sinew and silver skin from the cheeks and cut into quarters.
Brown the cheeks in hot olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Remove from the pan and sauté the onion, carrot, celery and garlic.
Add the beef cheeks, wine, marsala, herbs, orange peel, seasoning and 1 cup of water.
Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook at least for 3 hours – Cook longer if you wish – the cheeks should be very tender and falling apart.
If you would like a reduced, thicker sauce, remove the cheeks and reduce the sauce to desired consistency.Return the cheeks to the braise.
Some cooks remove the vegetables because they have served their purpose, but we ate ours. Waste not, want not.
I do not know the equivalent Italian saying – that’s because they usually eat everything…and I mean this as a compliment.


PORK, SALUMI (Smallgoods). Tasting Australia



Some of you may remember the film/documentary about bizarre local rituals called Mondo Cane (literally translated as a dog’s world – 1962). This is a collection of disconnected snippets from around the world on rather repellent cultural customs and ritual practices, among which there is one showing the slaughter of pigs in New Guinea and an other of Asians who eat dog meat.

In Adelaide I attended a Tasting Australia event called Mondo Di Carne, held at Rosa Matto’s cooking school – Rosa has been the queen of Italian cooking in Adelaide for many years.

Vincenzo Garreffa is a famous butcher from Western Australia and Mondo Di Carne is the name of his business. Vincenzo seems to have a good sense of humour (having spent five hours with him at the workshop) and I hope that he intentionally named his business with the film in mind, however he is also very serious about his meat – he bought all of his own meat to the event including a small suckling pig which was 3-4 weeks old and weighed 5.2 kilos.

As a participant I learned the fundamentals of Italian smallgoods manufacturing – how to make and prepare fresh sausages, capocollo, pancetta, salamini – these are small dried sausages, also called cacciatori (a cacciatore is a hunter and this type of small sized salami were ideal for a long day’s hunt).

I was not expecting a piglet, but there it was. Vincenzo boned it and stuffed it with three whole pork fillets (it had to be flesh as tender as the piglet), blanched almonds and a few slices of pork liver. Salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil and rosemary are a must. I have written about roasted suckling pig once before (a different recipe). As you can see he had trouble fitting it in the oven; there is a drip plate underneath.

And we all ate it and it tasted wonderful, and I kept on telling myself that there is no difference between slaughtering and eating a mother pig and a baby pig.  Those of you who may be thinking that you might like to try cooking a baby pig, can have one dispatched to you by Vincenzo within 24 hours. As for the price, it will cost you as much as a large pig, so you may think again.

Here are some of the photos:

It was a piggy weekend. On Sunday I also attended A Word of Mouth session called: Is Spanish the new French?

And pork features strongly in Spanish cuisine. I heard chef and co-owner Frank Camorra from Movida ( in Melbourne) and his travelling companion and writer Richard Cornish (books = Movida and Movida Rustica) discuss the delights of travelling and eating pork with writer John Barlowe . John, an Englishman, lives in Galicia, with his Spanish wife and two sons and in the book we encounter his travels and his experiences of eating every bit of the pig. (Book = Everything  But the Squeal, recently republished by Wakefield Press.)

I feel all pigged out.