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.
One upon a time, when people talked about “launching” something, they were usually talking about ships and the launch usually involved some celebrity smashing a bottle of champagne across the bow and standing back to watch the hull slide down the slipway and into the water! Or spectators crossing themselves and praying for the vessel’s safe voyages.
My feelings of anticipation, excitement and relief were just as intense when Richard Cornish launched my book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking, at the Museo Italiano in Faraday Street Carlton, last Sunday (6 November).
And while Richard didn’t crack a bottle of champagne over the lectern, and I did not make the sign of the cross, there was certainly plenty of wine, food and bubbles to float my book out into bookstores, and a great crowd of well-wishers who to lent a hand to see it on its way. All of them need to be thanked.
First, thanks to the staff of CoAsIt and the Museo Italiano and especially to Carlo Carli who is the Coordinator of the Museo Italiano, and Rosaria Zarro, Italian Education Officer at CoAsIt, who hosted the launch in the spacious and well-equipped conference room in Faraday Street, Carlton.
Special thanks to Richard Cornish, award-winning author and journalist. I have always admired Richard and his writing and I am deeply honoured and seriously grateful to Richard for launching Sicilian Seafood Cooking.
Richard Cornish is best known to readers of Epicure (the Age) and Good Living (Sydney Morning Herald) for his articles on food, concentrating on ethical and sustainable production. Richard has also co-authored a series of books on Spanish cuisine with Frank Camorra, chef and owner of Melbourne’s Movida restaurants. The latest book MoVida Cocina is published in November 2011 so I know how busy he must be.
The wine was generously provided by three producers – two of them, family companies, Coriole and Brown Brothers – and the other, a major producer of wines in Sicily, distributed by Arquilla Food and Wine.
Coriole [link to http://www.coriole.com] provided two varieties of Sangiovese, a wine whose Italian origins are most closely linked to Tuscany. Led by Mark Lloyd, Coriole has ventured further and further into the production of Italian varieties in their McLaren Vale vineyards, south of Adelaide. Coriole began with Sangiovese in 1987, and followed by Nebbiolo and Barbera. The experimentation has continued with plantings of Fiano (recently awarded Best McLaren Vale White Wine), Sagrantino and Nero d’Avola, which is yet to have a vintage – maybe next year.
Brown Brothers provided a sparkling Zibibbo, the Sicilian name for a grape originally named Muscat of Alexandria. You can never finish a meal in Sicily without being offered a glass of Zibibbo! Brown Brothers, who established their first vineyard at Milawa in the lower King Valley, grow the grapes for their Zibibbo at their Mystic Park Vineyard beside the Murray Valley Highway about halfway between Kerang and Swan Hill.
Arquilla supplied traditional Sicilian wines, Nero d’Avola and Frappato, produced by Feudi del Pisciotto. I first tasted the Feudi Nero d’Avola at my favourite Sicilian restaurant, Bar Idda, another fabulous family affair in the hands of Lisa and Alfredo La Spina, with Lisa’s brother Anthony managing the bar and the drinks.
The book didn’t just float out on glasses of Sicilian wine. There was a selection of tasty finger-food (or as they are called in Italian, spuntini).
Fiona Rigg, who was the amazing food stylist for the book, made a Christmas caponata [made with celery]. Being very creative she made some sauces (cipollata and mataroccu) from the chapter Come Fare una Bella Figura from Sicilian Seafood Cooking. [link to http://www.fionalouise.com.au]
Lisa and Alfredo from Bar Idda contributed roasted peppers [link to http://www.baridda.com.au] l Iove to eat at their restaurant!
The highly capable pastry chef, Marianna DiBartolo, who owns Dolcetti, [link to http://www.dolcetti.com.au] a Sicilian-inspired pastry shop (pasticceria) in North Melbourne, made special fish-shaped biscuits for the occasion, which were perfectly matched with the Zibibbo.
I was really pleased to see the editors of two important publications at the launch: Agi Argyropoulos editor and publisher of Seafood News
[link to http://www.seafoodnews.com.au] which I contribute a recipe to every month. Agi held the publication so that he could include photos from the launch, which deserves a special thank you, and has given it a whole page in the November edition.
And Danielle Gullaci from Italianicious, [link to http://www.italianicious.com.au] the bi-monthly magazine which celebrates all things Italian, and which is publishing an article on me in the January-February 2012 issue.
Others I would like to thank for their contribution to the success of the launch, include:
UCG Wholesale Foods at 58 A’Beckett Street Melbourne for the Novara Mineral Water,
The Sicilian travel experts, Echoes Events [link to http://www.echoesevents.com] for the posters of Sicily and a special thank you to the photographers on the day,
*Entry is free but you must book before Monday by phoning: 9819 1917.
The Adelaide launch of Sicilian Seafood Cooking is at:
Il Mercato, 625 Lower North East Road, Campbelltown at 3.00pm
on Sunday 20 November.
Il Mercato specialises in Italian food, wine and culture.
If you wish to attend the launch please RSVP to Cynthia at Il Mercato:
Sicilian Seafood Cooking will be launched by Rosa Matto – a great friend and a cook I’ve admired and respected for as long as I have known her.
Rosa and I will be introduced at the launch by the newly appointed Minister for Education and Child Development in South Australia, Grace Portolesi MP, the Member for Hartley (which includes Campbelltown).
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.)