To go with the ox cheeks in this dish, it's best if you can find small turnips with their leaves; you can then cut the leaves off, cook them briefly and scatter them over with the turnips. The leaves have a great flavour and it seems a shame to just throw them in the bin.
800g ox cheeks, halved if large
2 glasses of good red wine
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1tsp chopped thyme
1 bay leaf
Vegetable oil for frying
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
½tbsp plain flour
1½ltrs beef stock (a couple of good cubes will do)
1tsp tomato purée
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 baby turnips or 3-4 medium sized ones, peeled
A couple of days before you make this dish, put the ox cheeks into a non- reactive bowl with the red wine, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Cover with clingfilm and marinate in the fridge. When you're ready to make the dish, drain the meat in a colander, reserving the marinade, and dry the cheeks on some kitchen paper.
Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan, lightly flour the meat with half a tablespoon of the flour, season with salt and pepper and fry the meat on a high heat until nicely browned.
Heat the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and gently fry the onion for a few minutes until soft. Add the remaining tablespoon of flour and tomato purée and stir over a low heat for a minute. Slowly add the marinade, stirring constantly to avoid lumps forming. Bring to the boil and simmer until it has reduced by half. Add the beef stock and the pieces of beef, bring back to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer gently for about 2-2½ hours, until the meat is tender and the sauce thick. If you have a pressure cooker it will be ready in half the time.
It's difficult to put an exact time on braised meats, sometimes an extra half an hour's cooking may be necessary. Check by tasting the meat. Once it's cooked, the sauce should have thickened to a gravy-like consistency. If not, dilute a little cornflour in some water, stir into the sauce and simmer for a few minutes.
While the meat is cooking, if using baby or small turnips, you can cook them whole without peeling them; with larger ones, simply peel and cut them into wedges or large chunks. Cook them in boiling salted water, just enough to cover with a teaspoon of sugar for about 5 minutes, or until just cooked. Drain, stir in the butter, cover with a lid and keep warm.
To serve, add the port to the beef and simmer for a few more minutes. Spoon the cheeks on to warmed serving plates or a sharing dish and spoon the turnips on top.