Beef Cheeks ala Mexico

Beef Cheeks ala Mexico served with a Smokey red salsa


  • Braised Beef Cheeks:
    • ½ large onion, coarsely chopped
    • 5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
    • 35 ml canola oil
    • 1 tsp black peppercorns
    • 1 each whole clove and star anise
    • 1 tsp cumin seeds
    • 1½ tbsp coriander seeds
    • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1 tbsp sweet paprika
    • 500 gm beef cheek, cut into large dice (about 4cm x 7cm)
    • 1 tsp cocoa powder
    • 1 tomato, coarsely chopped
    • ¼ red capsicum, coarsely chopped
    • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • Smokey Red Salsa:
    • ¼ onion, skin on
    • 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
    • 1 ripe tomato
    • 1/3 red pepper
    • ½ long red chilli
    • 2 tsp lime juice


  1. Start with the Beef
  2. In a food processor add the chopped onion and garlic and blend until it is well combined.
  3. Remove and place into a saucepan with a bit of oil.
  4. Stir over medium low heat until the garlic is  golden.
  5. Regulate the temperature, to allow the onions and garlic to gradually caramelise.
  6. Add the peppercorns, whole clove, star anise, cumin seed, and coriander seeds into a mortar and pestle and start to grind until  finely crushed.
  7. Add the crushed spices to the onion mixture and add the cinnamon, paprika, beef pieces and cocoa powder.
  8. Now, add a good pinch of salt and stir occasionally until the spices have caramelised, but not burnt (about 8 to 10 min).
  9. Add tomato and red pepper into a food processor and process until smooth.
  10. When done, remove and add to the beef mixture.
  11. Stir well and cover with a tight fitting lid.
  12. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally until the meat is tender.
  13. This takes about 3 hours.
  14. Beef cheks have a lovely texture when cooked, and slow cooking them is the ideal way to prepare this cut.
  15. When the meat is tender take a fork and start to shred the beef.
  16. Now add the red wine vinegar and combine  well together.
  17. Keep warm until later.
  18. Smokey red salsa:
    1. Start by taking a griddle pan and heating it over very high heat.
    2. Now take the onion, garlic, tomato, red pepper, and the chilli and grill until completely blackened on all sides. This takes about 15 min.
    3. When done, remove from the pan and allow to cool to room temperature.
    4. The thin waxy skin on the outside of the vegetables is what gives the dark colour. It will also give a smoky flavour to the inner flesh of the vegetables.
    5. Peel the onion and the garlic.
    6. Remove the skins and the seeds from the tomato, pepper and the chillies.
    7. Now place all the vegetables into a blender, and add the lime juice and a pinch of salt.
    8. Now start to blend until all is well combined and smooth.
    9. Check for seasoning and add some salt and pepper if necessary.
    10. Now remove and place into a bowl.
    11. Keep aside until later.
  19. Now for the final touches
    1. Take a small bowl, add onion and coriander and mix well together.
    2. Keep it aside until later.
    3. Next, take a non-stick pan and briefly warm the tortillas before plating up the dish to serve.
    4. This dish has a few steps to it, but once you get going it is very easy to prepare.

Wine Pairing

  • Beyerskloof
  • Reuben paired he’s dish (above) with the following Beyerskloof wines:
  • Diesel Pinotage 2012
  • Pinotage Reserve 2012