Slow-Cooked Beef Cheeks with Asian Spices and…Nurses in Flight

Recently I was telling you about my experiences as a nurse and how I had to work on the cardio thoracic ward run by a woman with little tolerance for student nurses.  While there were people at the hospital who opportunistically tried to make life miserable for student nurses, we didn’t let them stop us from having a mountain of fun.

After six hours, dinner is ready

After six hours, dinner is ready

For the three years of our training we moved between study block and time ‘on the wards’.  While in study block we had lectures from Monday to Friday, 8am until 5pm for a period of four weeks.  We had a 15-minute recess and a 45-minute lunch break and the rest of the time was face-to-face teaching. with all that teaching-time combined with evening study and assignments, we were looking for relief from our books.  One day I was with my two friends, Kath and Cath and it was lunch time and we wandered up the hill to ‘the blue carpet area’.  The blue carpet area was the entry foyer of the ugly hospital and yes, it had blue carpet.

Browned beef cheeks

Browned beef cheeks

This is where there was an admission’s desk, a post office, a hairdressing salon and a bank.  But there was also a takeaway shop and it had a counter of mixed lollies.  We headed over to the lolly counter because lollies are necessary to get through ENT lectures and that’s what we had coming up after lunch.

But as we stood at the counter we saw the very good-looking helicopter pilots come in for a takeaway coffee.  (Helicopter pilots are always good looking).  These genetically-blessed males with uniforms that added to their aura flew the rescue helicopters and to a student nurse, confined within the walls of a demountable classroom day after day after day, these pilots with their search-and-rescue jobs seemed like demigods.

Swiss brown mushrooms

Swiss brown mushrooms

And we wanted to get to know them.

And we wondered what it would be like to fly in a helicopter.

As we watched them head back to their prestigious offices beside the helipad we wondered if they liked lollies as much as we did.  We pulled our resources and bought two of the largest bags of mixed lollies possible and headed over to their sacred site on the hospital’s grounds.  We knocked on the door of the very special offices and one of the pilots opened the door.

Beef cheeks with Asian flavours

Beef cheeks with Asian flavours

‘Hello’, we said, ‘We just wanted to bring you a special treat’.  And we handed the pilots the lollies.  They were a bit stunned and I’m not sure they were used to student nurses knocking on their door bearing gifts but they smiled and invited us in.

Kath said, ‘In exchange, how about a ride in the helicopter?’

And one of the pilots said, ‘Oh, no, we can’t do that’.

And Cath said, ‘But look at all the lollies we gave you’.  And the things is; timing is everything; the pilots were just about to take the helicopter on a trip around the harbour as part of its maintenance requirements and here we were, ready to climb into the spare back seat.

‘Are you sure you nurses are allowed to come with us?’

‘Of course’, I said, ‘We’re on a lunch break’.

Served on a bed of spinach

Served on a bed of rocket

After some hesitation on their part and us reminding them how many lollies we bought them, they said, ‘Let’s go’.  And we tried hard to conceal our excitement and disbelief that we actually were leaving the hospital in a helicopter.

We climbed aboard and did up our seat-belts and were given some headphones and then the whirring began and we were up, up, up and away and we couldn’t stop looking at each other and giggling.

We flew right above those demountable classrooms and headed to the city where we went over the harbour bridge and the opera house and then took a left and headed through the heads and out to Manly.  Our eyes were fixed on the beautiful view and the pilots gave us a great tour, pointing out the landmarks and places of interest.

Can be served with rice or a salad

Can be served with rice or a salad or both!

Meanwhile, back in the demountable, the Education Sister was marking the role and wondering why Nr Stewart-Cooper, Nr Cunningham and Nr Letts weren’t in class, ready for that ENT lecture.  ‘Where are they?’ she demanded.

The room was silent but then a shaky voice nervously replied, ‘Someone said the rescue pilots took them for a flight in the helicopter’.

‘Don’t be silly, Nurse’, came the dismissive reply, ‘Nurses do not fly around in helicopters’.

The view from the helicopter of Sydney Harbour was amazing and we didn’t want the flight to end.  But the pilots did have to head back and as we again approached the harbour bridge we asked if he could fly under it but that apparently, is against the law.

Back on land, we thanked the pilots ever so much and as we sprinted down the hill towards the demountable the smiles were stripped from our faces.  ‘We’re 25-minutes late’, said Cath.

‘What are we going to say?’ I asked.

‘I don’t think it’s in the rules that we can’t go up in a helicopter’, stated Kath.

And then we had to walk in.  We slowly turned the door handle and the door creaked open.  The room went silent.  The Education Sister was glaring at us.  ‘Nr Stewart-Cooper, Nr Cunningham and Nr Letts; you are more than half an hour late and the Health Department pays you to be here; where have you been?’

‘We didn’t know we’d be this long’.

‘Where have you been?’ she demanded.

‘We went for a ride in the helicopter’.  And the Education Sister was furious.  And she didn’t know what to do because flying around Sydney Harbour in a helicopter wasn’t in the operating manual of nursing practise.  So as we quietly slipped into our seats while stifling the giggles she yelled, ‘Nurses are to have two feet on the ground at all times’.

– Just so you know.

Beef cheeks with mushrooms and Asian spices

Beef cheeks with mushrooms and Asian spices

And so we come to the beef cheeks.  I found some at the supermarket that were organic as well as well priced and as they were cooking, Nr Cunningham was on facebook communicating with me about our nursing escapades.  Back then we ate at the hospital’s cafeteria and the food was bland – definitely nothing interesting like beef cheeks.

5.0 from 8 reviews
Slow-Cooked Beef Cheeks and...Nurses in Flight
Recipe type: Asian Fusion
Cuisine: Slow-Cooked
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
  • 2 tbspns olive oil
  • 1.5kgs beef cheeks
  • ½ cup cornflour, seasoned
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Rind of 1 orange
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 knob of garlic, sliced
  • 1½ cups dry red wine
  • 1 cup (250 mls) beef stock
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbspns soy sauce
  • ½ bunch thyme leaves
  • ½ tspn Chinese 5-spice powder
  • 500gms button mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup chopped chives
  • chopped parsley to garnish
  1. Heat oil in a large casserole dish.
  2. Coat beef cheeks in seasoned cornflour and dust off excess.
  3. Place beef cheeks in a single layer in casserole dish and brown on both sides, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Turn down the heat in the casserole dish and add onion, orange rind, garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant.
  5. Add beef cheeks then pour in red wine. Bring to the boil.
  6. Add stock, water, vinegar, soy sauce, thyme, and 5-spice powder and return to the boil.
  7. Cover with a lid and place in a 140C oven for 4 hours.
  8. Remove from the oven and add mushrooms.
  9. Return to the oven for 2 hours.
  10. Stir through chives.
  11. Garnish with chopped parsley.
  12. Serve with steamed rice and a green salad if desired.

I made these on a cold and wet winter’s night – excellent comfort food but you do need to allow six hours of cooking time.

After six hours, dinner is ready

After six hours, dinner is ready

If you’re looking for more beef cheek recipes, try slow cooked beef cheeks with mushrooms and red wine.

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  1. What a fantastic story…. Did I see right? where those from Woolies? I have been looking everywhere for beef cheeks, but haven’t been able to find them!!! I will look more seriously now 🙂 Liz x

  2. Well at least you got to have the experience! Worth missing out on a few minutes of ENT (<–boring!).

  3. What a wonderful recipe!! 🙂

  4. What a hilarious story with a delightful surprise ending.

  5. Great story – I’m sure the helicopter ride was worth it and how nice you are still in touch your fellow students all these years later. By the by, I used to think cheeks were from the other end:)

  6. What a great story, I have pictures in my head exactly what the educational sister looks like, very stern indeed. Wonderful memory.

  7. Hi Charlie, you are always so funny and entertaining…
    I have never had beef cheek…looks delicious and very comforting…thanks for the recipe.
    Have a wonderful week 😀

  8. Oh, what a great story. I can just imagine the look on the presenter’s face, and also your joy at escaping for a while! I’m on a National Health Service induction week at the moment and a flight in a helicopter would be just the thing to break the day up 😉

  9. I’ve never even heard of beef cheeks! What a gorgeous meal. Looks rich and fabulous. Perfect for your winter time! We are getting a bit of a break from the heat today, thank goodness. Only 93 and overcast rather than the 101 degrees yesterday. 😉 We’re not quite ready for Fall, but even weather in the low 90’s is welcomed right now.

    I love your stories, such an exciting and fun life you’ve had and lead now! 🙂 You’ll be just as happy as I am to hear that our landscapers have finally arrived. ~ April

  10. Hilarious story and the scolding was worth it for your experience in the air. I bet the 3 of you became part of the mythos of the teaching hospital for years afterwards as student nurses compared THEIR own misdemeanors to yours. Or marvelled about how adventurous you were. 🙂

    What a wonderfully tasty combination of flavours and I know the hours of simmering gave you mouth watering and tender results. I’ll have to ask my butcher if they have any beef cheeks … though I may have to settle for beef shin.

  11. That’s an incredible story! Well worth being (just a bit) late for class. So cool

  12. Very tasty sounding beef cheeks with the five spice and orange rind. I’ve never seen them in our market but I know I could use another cut of beef.

  13. I definitely couldn’t have been a nurse then Charlie- my head is always in the clouds 🙂 What a great swap, lollies for helicopter ride. It just shows how much inflation has gone up though, nowadays 2 bags of lollies would barely get you a bus ride! 🙂
    Gorgeous beef cheeks, haven’t they been hard to find this year? Last year I was getting them in Aldi, and I’ve only seen them at Woolies once or twice. That’s the problem when something becomes trendy I guess, shame because they’re so delicious 🙁 xox

  14. The story made me laugh and the beef cheeks made me hungry! As I just told Lorraine, I’ve never cooked oxtail (or macarons) and now I have to confess that I haven’t cooked beef cheeks either. I like to eat them…but have just not had access to them. Now I feel inspired.

  15. Well thanks for letting the parents in on the goings on!

  16. Hehe what a great story! I don’t know if I like the sound of that school, it sounds like they treated you like kids. Of course you should be allowed to go on a helicopter ride if you can handle your coursework! 😀

  17. i seriously do not eat enough beef cheeks.. these look seriously delicious!

  18. Hmmm: helo pilots Charlie? And I was certain you all were after the same doctors-to-be as we eyed 😉 !!! Love your fusion cheeks’ recipe tho’ methinks it owes a lot more to France than to China 😀 !! The blessed cheeks are getting harder and harder to get and I am surprised you got them at Woolies! Well, as I just stated at Lorraine’s – let all the offal goodies stay in the pet aisle: the price and availability will be much better . . . look at what our foodie blogs and TV shows have done to the beef cheek availability!!!!!

    • It’s so true, Eha; as soon as things become trendy they’re not only hard to find but the skyrocket in price. I too was surprised to find beef cheeks in WWs and was so thrilled that they were also organic.

  19. Dear Charlie,

    This winter dish looks delicious! I’ve never seen beef cheeks in supermarkets before, is it Coles or Woolies? I normally get them from my butcher.

  20. Another fabulously interesting story, Charlie! And now to the recipe, wish I could say I like beef cheeks, but somehow they are too strong in flavour. Nice recipe though.

  21. Yummy dish and even yummier story with those helicopter pilots. My parents had a fishing business that used a helicopter to spot the schools of fish and I loved riding in it but the helicopter pilot was a bit too rugged and aged for my liking at that tender age.

  22. Oh you rules-breaker YOU! You certainly know how to have a good time. I can just imagine the stifled giggles as you returned to your seats. What a delightful memory. And your recipe looks delightful,too. I might have to wait a little while for winter’s cooling, but my mouth is watering!

  23. Hahaha!!! What a cracking story!!! I can imagine how fantastic those pilots must have looked to you hormone driven routine bound beauties. I am sure the pilots lived all the adoration.

  24. i love that you all had the gumption to actually ask for a ride and to get one. good on ya. and wow those beef cheeks look wonderful.

  25. What fun going for a flip in a helicopter! I’ve never cooked beef cheeks before, they look scrumptious.
    Have a wonderful day Charlie.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  26. Adventurous young thing! What an experience. Nice cheeks too !

  27. Woo having fun means breaking the rules a little bit 😛
    Thanks for making me grin!
    These beef cheeks look absolutely awesome, I am sure they were well-loved on the dinner table 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

  28. You wouldn’t be able to do that now . You’d have to sign all kinds of forms!. Weren’t we young at a great time?. I have found quite a few beef cheeks at rthe meat wolesalers in Alexandria . i’ve never seen them at the supermarket. It’s a bit out there for the big two. Love the use of orange . I always love orange with beef.

  29. That helicopter ride must have been exciting. Sydney is the most beautiful city.

    I love slow cooked beef cheeks. They just melt in your mouth.

  30. Ohhhh – I have a huge grin across my face with all those wonderful memories of our helicopter adventure (and the many others as well!) We did have such fun.
    I must say I have never seen any animal cheeks in my supermarkets, or even the butcher! It looks and sounds delicious and I might just have to go on a rigorous hunt for them. Thanks my gorgeous friend 🙂

  31. G’day! What a great story Charlie and how awesome!
    Beef cheeks have been on my list to do!
    Glad you enjoyed!
    Cheers! Joanne

  32. What a lovely fun post to read! Your slow-cooked beef look extremely divine, Charlie! waw even! x

  33. Hahhaa… You were the naughty nurse. LOL! Such a great story Charlie. I love hearing about your journey to now. Oh yeah, riding in a helicopter is sooooo much fun, I did a fly over the Berra a couple of years back, it was so surreal. Tis on my list to fly over Syders.
    Just sent a message home with your recipe attached, cooking this beauty for dinner I am, I knew I wanted to do a slow cook, and this was the inspiration I needed.

  34. Now I just have to find beef cheeks…

  35. Has anybody actually cooked this recipe?

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