Tag Archives: Ox cheek

The Royal Oak – Staveley, Yorkshire

“They keep pulling them out these Yorkshire folk. Another great country pub with food”

Whilst attending our annual, anniversary, celebration weekend in the fare town of Harrogate, we agreed to meet up with some chums from Leeds. After a very pleasant walk round Knaresborough (highly recommended) we were then wisked off to the hamlet of Staveley. There in lay the quaint frontage of The Royal Oak. Surrouded by trees and other foliage, even shrouded in cloud, it cut a heady dash.


We bounced in for our two thirty appointment. Low beams accompanied the standard trappings of an old, country pub. The gentlemen part of the binge headed for a Sweetheart IPA, the ladies kept down the soft drink track. We settled into a well set table for four. The place was half full. A merry ambiance was in play. A simple, single sided Sunday menu was presented by our young waitress. £21.50 for three courses. A fine offer. The waitress announced that the soup of the day was ‘Pea, watercress and mint’, though I did enquire whether she meant Pea water, cress and mint’, a subtle difference, I think you’ll agree? My little jokette appreciated by all. I was on a roll (get on with it – Ed).

Fine simple menu
Fine simple menu

Time to chose. Two went for the pea water soup. Considered fine by the imbibers. The Flame would have liked hers hotter but otherwise all was well. The good Yorkshire lady and myself went for the intriguing ‘Whitby Crab Pot Noodle’. Forgive me if I wax on a bit here. A giant ‘humbug’ jar filled with grass along with a jug of hot brown stock duly arrived. We peered in, sniffing and viewing as we went. Gingerly we poured in the broth. The contents came alive and we tucked in. After the initial disappointment of not getting a big chunk of crab to knaw on, we both agreed that it was all rather tasty. The crab broth melted the noodles, greenery and the rest to create a fragrant and very tasty soup.

Sweetheart and pea water soup
Sweetheart and pea water soup
The Whitby crab pot noodle
The Whitby crab pot noodle

For mains we mainly went for the ox cheek and mushroom pie. A proper pie too, sides and a bottom. It came with a wodge of hot, buttery mash, a beef dripping carrot and a slew of deep, rich jus. We all agreed this was seriously good. Plenty of shredded cheek in a super rich gravy. It was a delight. It was accompanied by a big dish of greens, heritage carrots and a big dish of chips. All hot and ready. Great feed.

Ox cheek and mushroom pie
Ox cheek and mushroom pie

As ever, not to let you down The Cooktwit plumbed for a dessert. The ‘nearly famous’ lemon posset. Once again the giant humbug jar came into play. The advantage here is that it is a deceptibly large vessel and so the portion was generous to say the least. And given the quality was up there too, lemony, meringue and fruity I can safely say the afters was a minor triumph. The Flame ventured into the fray with a standard but nonetheless highly creditable bramley apple crumble. Our Yorkshire contingent settled on a chocolate truffle, banana, honeycomb and chocolate sorbet. Well presented on a huge glass plate, the good lady loved it. Sadly I didn’t much of a look in!

Lemon posset, chocolate dessert, apple crumble
Lemon posset, chocolate dessert, apple crumble

In conclusion we all enjoyed a thoroughly splendid Sunday luncheon. The Royal Oak Staveley goes on to the list as somewhere to go to again if ever we’re in the area. Recommended.
The Royal Oak,
Main Street,
North Yorkshire HG5 9LD.
01423 340267


The Black Swan – Lower Withington, Cheshire

“Hope you’re hungry and like fast deer! Great country retreat…“

It’s a fairly drab Saturday afternoon in May, a shuffling sweep round the bathroom showrooms of Stockton Heath is not exactly getting the juices flowing. Still let’s not get too downhearted The Cooktwit had bagged The Flame a slap up binge at The Black Swan in somewhere called Lower Withington.

This black version is a stable mate of The Swan at Newby Bridge, a place The Flame and I have enjoyed on several occasions in the past. It’s a fair old romp to get there though. The M6 gets you thereabouts but then it’s a gentle swage through its leafier bits. Twemlow and Sweetenham are just two of the many haunts who gain your patronage on the way to this fine outpost.

They even do pizza outside in summer
They even do pizza outside in summer

The Black Swan makes a fine sight as you enter its domain. Its jaunty ‘swan with a cap’ brand lifts the spirits. There’s some serious hardware in the car park on arrival. Not too many beat up Mondeos here. I reckon some pretty hot horse, ‘rugger’ and ‘gunnery’ pastimes are enjoyed by the clientele here!

If you think the external branding is quirky, wait til you get inside! Whilst I am a fan of the industrial heavy metal of the Manchester scene it is a pleasant change to step into the chintzy country style of the Swan. ‘Sandersonesque’ prints swathe the comfy chairs and the odd wall. A flock of dead deer adorn one wall. They must have hit that wall hard! Mr Farrow and Mr Ball have done well. ‘Sagey’ greens get a good airing. The Flame is totally enchanted. It’s definitely a female setting, very homely. No harm in that, so its smiles all round as I quench my thirst with a pint of their very own local ‘Mucky Duck’. A light session ale with only three point six points on the ‘drunkometer’. It’s good stuff.

Chintz, Fast Sheep
Chintz, Fast deer!

We select from the ‘hand written’ black on white menu (always a good thing). For starts I go for the chorizo scotch egg with a saffron aioli (£6.95). The flame is teased into seared sardines with vine tomatoes, toasted brioche with salsa verde (also £6.95). At first my egg looks a bit lost and boring, but it soon livens up when I plunge in. Turns out it was rather good. The chorizo cover was lovely, particularly when married with the saffron aioli. I’m pleased to say the flames’ sardines are good too. She suggests the brioche is a little sweet for her, but all in all despite the long wait, we’re chuffed. image

Sardines and Chorizo scoth egg
Sardines and Chorizo scoth egg

For mains I am drawn straight away to the ox cheek ragout with pesto linguine and pecorino (£12.50). I’m partial to the cheek of ox (see recipe here). The ox cheek bit was plentiful and superb though I did detect a slightly curious, deep scented taste, which could have been basil or basil oil? Another pedantic note is that the sheer volume of linguine had even me quaking. I reckon at least a third less would have done me! The flame had the beer can chicken with chunky chips and ranch salad (£11.95). She elected to forego the sweet and spicy BBQ sauce. Again a good portion (I had to finish half of it!). We couldn’t really detect what the beer can had added. As expected it was good well cooked chicken. The salad was especially good being chunky and fresh.

Ox Cheek ragout, Beer can Chicken
Ox Cheek ragout, Beer can Chicken

As usual for research purposes I had a dessert. And boy what a dessert. Banoffee cheesecake with toffee sauce (£5.95). This really was good, as good as any I’ve had in a good while. Guaranteed as being homemade by Emma our young, smiling waitress it was a creamy and dare I say almost boozy triumph. A fine end to a most enjoyable hour or so.

Banoffee chessecake
Banoffee chessecake
More Chintz
More Chintz

Amongst the advertorial material on the country table was a notelet about a natty little walk. The suggestion being that one should troop round the advertised route and pop back to the swan for brunch (they are open at 10am). I think we’re on for this. That’s our next plot when we’re next in err……..Lower Withington. I reckon you should try it.

The Black Swan
Trap Street,
Lower Withington,
SK11 9EQ 01477 571770

Braised Ox Cheeks – A Winter Stew

I’m not going to lie to you, a raw ox cheek does not scream eat me. When Nicola (my local butcher from Red Bank Farm) heaved an immense globule of fatty, car tyre from its display lair, I was tempted to suggest she lever it back into place. I’ve had pigs cheeks before, they were dainty ‘ovalettes’ of tender, meaty goodness, a stark contract to the wad of flesh that an ox chews it’s cud against. However, a strange curiosity made me keep up with the scheme and so a Sunday tea of ‘braised ox cheek’ was born.

The ox cheek before and after the marinating
The ox cheek before and after the marinating
A recipe was found courtesy of James Ramsden, foodie writer. I skirt through his method with my added pics and words. Hopefully they merely embellish an already glorious wordage. As many meat lovers may already know, fatty when slow cooked for a long time becomes spectacularly gelatinous, and (in James’s words) extraordinarily handsome. I do urge you to do this. The results are extraordinary. Ox cheek is wonderfully flavoursome, perfect for a winters eve. About 15 minutes prep is all that’s needed. The oven does the rest.

It can be done a day or two ahead if you like – the flavour will only improve – I served with greens and mustard mashed potato.

Browning, adding the veg and then shredding after the oven
Browning, adding the veg and then shredding after the oven
Braised Ox Cheeks
Serves 4-6




For the marinade


2 ox cheeks, 1.5-2kg
Half a bottle of red wine
A bay leaf
A few peppercorns
A garlic clove, squished
A dried red chilli


For the braise


50g butter
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
300ml beef or chicken stock
1 tbsp tomato puree
Salt and pepper




Put the ox cheeks in a bowl with the other marinade ingredients and add a good pinch of salt. Leave for as long as you can – ideally in the fridge for a few days, (I left mine in the garage overnight!), but an hour is better than nothing


Preheat the oven to 160C. Remove cheeks from marinade and pat thoroughly dry. Heat a drop of oil (if using olive don’t use your best) in a frying pan over a strong flame and brown the cheeks thoroughly, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Transfer to a large saucepan. I ended up using my beloved ‘Le Crueset’ roasting tin.


Lower the heat in the frying pan. Add the butter and melt, then add the vegetables and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Soften for a few minutes then add to the pan with the ox cheeks.


Tip the marinade into the frying pan along with the stock and bring to a simmer, scraping any sticky bits off the pan. Tip this into the saucepan, cover, and transfer to the oven. Cook for 3-4 hours until tender.
Remove the cheeks from the braising liquor and rest in a bowl. Put the saucepan over a generous heat, add the tomato puree, and simmer to reduce by about a half.

Meanwhile shred the cheeks with a couple of forks. Return to the pan and stir through the reduced broth. Keep warm until ready to serve, or cool and refrigerate until whenever. I promise it will be spectacular!

The final result, rich and uncious
The final result, rich and uncious
Recipe by James Ramsden  @jteramsden http://www.greatbritishchefs.com


Ox cheeks by Red Bank Farm http://www.farmshopnorthwest.co.uk
Red Bank Farm Shop, Winwick Road,
Newton Le Willows, Warrington, WA12 8DU
Tel: 07824 369174