If pesto is a indulgent, luxurious Roman aristocrat then salsa verde is its vibrant Mediterranean coastal cousin.
With its punchy, acidic flavours of lemon, capers and herbs, it pairs wonderfully with any type of seafood.
But one union I hadn’t previously considered was using it to give some lighter, fresher notes to hearty winter dishes.
Slow-cooked casseroles are wonderful in their own right, served with mash potato or pasta or hunks of crusty bread for the ultimate satisfying tummy-filler.
But I highly suggest giving tradition an interesting new twist with a few dollops of this vibrant sauce.
This was the first time I’ve cooked beef cheeks and to be honest, they really aren’t the most attractive cuts of meat. I was rather taken aback at their appearance and how determinedly tough they were to trim.
But pour over some velvety cabernet merlot and leave them for a few hours in the oven – well, let’s just say that magic happens…
slow-braised beef cheeks with salsa verde
adapted from the recipe in ‘delicious. more please’ by valli little
750ml bottle of red wine 6 beef cheeks, trimmed 2 onions, chopped 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped 1L good quality beef stock 2 bay leaves 2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper olive oil
salsa verde 1 thick slice of white bread, crusts removed ½ cup olive oil 1 handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped 1 handful basil, finely chopped 2 tbsp finely chopped lemon zest ¼ cup lemon juice 2 tbsp capers, drained and chopped 2 cloves garlic, crushed
to serve creamy mash potato or wet polenta
Preheat your oven to 170°C (350°F).
Place the wine in a medium saucepan and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until reduced by half.
Heat a glug of olive oil in a large ovenproof casserole dish over medium-high heat.
Dust the beef cheeks in the seasoned flour. The easiest way to do this is to place the flour in a plastic bag (first make sure there are no holes in the bottom!), pop in the beef cheeks and give the whole thing a good shake to make sure the meat is evenly coated.
In batches, brown the beef cheeks for a couple of minutes each side on each side until sealed, adding a little more oil in between if necessary. Remove and set aside.
Add the onions to the pan, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until soft. Stir in the garlic and return the browned beef cheeks to the pan.
Add the reduced wine, beef stock and bay leaves. The meat should be completely covered with liquid, so top up with water if necessary. Cover and cook in the oven for at least two and half hours, or until the beef is meltingly tender.
Meanwhile for the salsa verde, break the bread into chunks and drizzle with olive oil.
Mix with your hands so that the oil is absorbed and then place with the remaining olive oil and sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor.
Blend to a paste and taste to check the flavour balance. If the sauce is too thick, you can thin it with more lemon juice and olive oil. Set aside until ready to serve.
Once the meat is cooked and completely tender, carefully remove the cheeks and place on a plate, covering with foil to keep them warm.
Place the casserole over medium-high heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce thickens. Taste and season if necessary.
Serve the beef cheeks over a bed of mashed potato, ladle generously with the cooking sauce and dollop with salsa verde.