Rustic French Style Beef Cheeks & Lentils

Here in Gascony, they like their food robust and hearty. No nonsense nourishing dishes are quite typical. The origins of the cuisine come from the peasant farmers who lived off the land, eating seasonally and needing plenty of big bold dishes to fuel them.

During the Autumn and Winter months, I find that I crave these filling, restorative dishes also. Who can resist a steaming bowl of Garbure, brimming with duck, beans and packed with veggies? Or a rich, boozy Bourginon? Or a generous comforting Cassoulet? I know you know what I am talking about.

Taking my inspiration from these kinds of gutsy dishes, I decided to use some beef cheeks to make a rustic lentil stew, something similar to a Petit Salé aux Lentilles which would typically be made with salted pork belly.

It’s simple food, cooked in one pot, packed with vegetables, chunks of meat and substantial lentils. It feels old fashioned, traditional and befitting of my farmhouse kitchen. It is a dish that feels right for a cold grey Sunday; it wants to nurture and soothe you. This dish is like a trusty old friend.

With carrots, onions and celery as a base, I also decided to include chunks of beetroot which worked beautifully with the beefy cheeks and added sweetness. Infused with all the herbiness of a bouquet garni, cooked slowly with plenty of white wine and garlic, the smell that engulfed my kitchen was downright incredible.

This is real food. This dish is big, confident and brazenly humble. This is for days when you need to be fed. Pure and simple and honest…(and of course it’s unquestionably delicious!)

French Style Beef Cheeks & Lentils

(Serves 4)

750g Beef cheeks, cut into 8 chunks
1 tbsp olive oil
100ml white wine
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp duck fat
4 thick slices of pork belly, cut in half
2 small onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
300ml water
1 bouquet garni 
roughly 1/2 a bottle of white wine
1 raw beetroot, peeled and chopped in to 2cm chunks
300g green lentils
1 can of chopped tomatoes
300ml chicken stock
chopped parsley for garnish

First, prepare your cheeks. Remove any sinew you can and cut them into 8 chunks. Place them in a dish and pour over the olive oil and 100ml of white wine along with lots of salt and pepper, the bay leaf and the thyme. Pop them in the fridge to marinade for at least 1 hour or over night.

Beef Cheeks marinading

Heat your oven to 160Fan/180C. In an oven proof casserole pot, heat the duck fat and begin by frying your pork belly. Once sealed, remove and set aside. Then brown the cheeks until coloured on all sides, reserve the marinade. Remove and set aside with the pork belly.

Beef Cheeks frying

Throw in your onions, carrots and celery and garlic and fry for 5 minutes to soften.


Add the reserved marinade and herbs. Add the water and bouquet garni. Add the cheeks and pork belly and top up with white wine to cover. Bring to a simmer, cover and place in the oven for 2 hours.

Cheeks & pork belly in pot

Meanwhile, after 1 hour of cooking, place your chunks of beetroot in a small oven proof dish and drizzle with a little olive oil and season. Roast in the oven for 1 hour.

When the cheeks have been in the oven for 2 hours, take them out and add the lentils and beetroot to the pot and stir well. Add some extra water if it looks a bit too dry. Place back in the oven for 30 minutes.

Beef Cheeks & Lentils

After 30 minutes, remove from the oven and place on the hob. Add the can of chopped tomatoes and the chicken stock and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes so that it becomes like an oozy sauce.

Beef Cheeks & Lentil Stew with sauce

Finally, chop your parsley to sprinkle over the top when you serve it in big bowls.

Beef & Lentil Stew with Beetroot

I am entering this dish into this months Four Seasons Food Challenge which I co host. Louisa has the reigns for November though where the theme is Soups Stews & One Pot Wonders.

Four Seasons Food

Four Seasons Food hosted by Delicieux and Eat Your Veg

Also, I am popping it into Karen from Lavender & Lovage’s Cooking With Herbs Challenge.

Cooking with Herbs

And finally, I am also putting this into Recipe of the Week hosted by Emily over at A Mummy Too.

Link up your recipe of the week


18 thoughts on “Rustic French Style Beef Cheeks & Lentils”

  1. This looks really hearty and delicious. I’ve never tried lentils with beef – for some reason I always cook them with pork- but why not? It’s almost like an Axoa… I think I’d be tempted to add some ‘piment d’Espelette’ too. 😉

    1. Hi Fiona. The beef worked really well with the lentils and like you say – why not? We had a bowl of left over lentils without any cheeks left in it for lunch the day after and they were so flavoursome… I am sure some piment would work well. x

  2. I love the idea of using white wine instead of red with beef – and beetroot is an intriguing addition. One for the weekend – bring on the rain and cold!!

    1. Hi Jules! The white wine worked so well. It does seem like using red wine with beef is the law but using white wine was also delicious and let the beef shine through a bit more. Beetroot and beef work – fact 🙂 xx

  3. Any recipe with either French or Rustic in the title always gets my attention and this looks so comforting and tasty! What a great use of an underused cut of meat too.

    1. Ooh me too Karen. Rustic French anything gets my vote. This was indeed comforting and beef cheeks are an amazing cut of meat – one of my favourites in fact now that I have discovered them.

  4. SOLD! Another superb looking recipe and cleverly put together set of ingredients Anneli, that I so want to climb into my computer screen and demolish! And yet another unusual and underused ingredient I should get my act together and cook with!. And another great Four Seasons Food entry :))

    1. Thanks Lou! Glad you approve. You must try to get your hands on some cheeks – I just know you will love them. I would be interested to know how hard it is to source them in the UK actually. Let me know if you try and how you get on xx

    1. Hi Vicki – thanks for stopping by. Happy to link up to #tastytuesdays. Went to your site but can’t see what to do. Please do let me know and I will get involved 🙂

  5. Oh that’s so comforting and warming for an autumn evening. I love the added beetroot. I feel cosy already. All I need now is a roaring fire. Well, actually I wouldn’t mind a little garbure to start as well. And maybe a small glass of floc, if you happen to have any.

  6. No idea where to get beef cheeks – but the rest (with a different cut) sounds fantastic. It’s a rainy, stormy night as I type this.,…. Could be lunch tomorrow.

    1. I am sure it would still be delicious with some chunks of stewing beef instead…anything slow cooked and tender would work. If you make it / made it, I really hope it was good for you x

  7. Looks so perfect for the sudden cold weather we’re having *shivers* Love your presentation too – really appetising.

    Thanks so much for linking up with #recipeoftheweek – I’ve Pinned this post and there’s a fresh linky live on the blog now. Hope you join in! x

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