Have the cheek to cook this classic

Braised beef, ale and onions served with carrot and swede mash is Lawrence's recipe this week
Braised beef, ale and onions served with carrot and swede mash is Lawrence's recipe this week
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Braised beef, ale and onions is such a classic English dish to be served in the cold winter months and one that I really enjoy.

The French would use red wine instead of beer and add a few mushrooms, and the Italians would add pancetta and cook it for so long the meat would break down into a pasta sauce.

Its good to go back to some of the home cooking we ate as children and realise that some of our food heritage is just as good as our European friends.

You have to choose the correct cut of meat, something that will become tender as it cooks for several hours, has a little fat for flavour and some age for depth.

The ale needs to be bitter, but not too bitter, and have flavour to compliment and not overpower the beef.

Experimentation with these factors has led me to choose beef cheeks or beef blade and I am using Palmerston’s Folly ale which is a wheaty-tasting beer brewed by Suthwyk Ales using wheat and barley grown onPortsdown Hill.

If you have trouble finding beef cheeks or blade, then use beef shin and serve with mashed swede and carrots.

Braised beef, ale and onions

Serves four


2 beef cheeks, trimmed

1 onion, carrot, leek and celery stick

2 cloves garlic

10 peppercorns

Bay leaf

500ml bottle Palmerston’s Folly

500ml beef stock

2 onions, sliced

Knob of butter



1. Cut the vegetables into 2cm pieces

2. Heat a large casserole pan and add a little butter

3. Add the vegetables to the pan and cook for five minutes until they turn golden brown

4. Add the ale, stock, bay, peppercorns and garlic and bring to the boil

5. Add the beef cheeks and cover the pan

6. Put the casserole dish into a pre-heated oven (150c, Gas Mark 3) for two-and-a-half hours

7. Check the cheeks are cooked by testing with a skewer which will pass through them easily

8. Allow to cool in the liquid

9. Remove the cheeks and pass the remaining liquid through a sieve

10. In a clean pan, heat the knob of butter and add the onions and cook until caramelised.

11. Pour the liquid over the onions and simmer until half the liquid is left

12. Slice the cheeks and add them to your onion and ale sauce.

13. Place in a hot oven (200c, Gas Mark 7) for 25 minutes. Season sauce to taste and they will be ready to serve.