Moroccan Cheek Meat and Oxtail Stew

I don't recall a day my mother didn't have a wholesome dinner freshly cooked for us. She made every meal with love and even as a little girl I remember how it made me feel cared for and secure. Now that I'm a mother, I appreciate it so much more, because some days are pure craziness and preparing even the simplest meal feels challenging. I believe rather doubtlessly that my mother's love language is cooking for others. There's a thrill that feeding someone else gives, as if the efforts are nurturing them. And that's a feeling she thrives on, and one I might have inherited also.

My mother has a few dishes that only she makes so skillfully. Most of them are Libyan meals she learned from her grandmother and aunt, like her from-scratch couscous with mafroum and t'shirshi, as well as chraymi. I hope to cook them with her one day and write about them here if for nothing more than the sake of documenting them.

There's also this stew that has never left anyone not asking for seconds. Cheek meat and oxtail are cooked on a low flame just short of endlessly to yield a soft, tender meat that slides right off its flesh. The flavors are essentially Moroccan, and very similar to the ones I use for my Moroccan Salmon every Shabbat. There's a deep red pepper taste from the paprika and dried chile peppers which adds a lot of richness just as the sauce's scarlet red color suggests. I wouldn't oppose an extra teaspoon of spicy paprika, but I'm also a big fan of spicy. About those chickpeas, they cook to that perfect state of substantial yet borderline mushy and add a light heartiness to round things off and call it a meal. A pot of rice or a bowl of couscous would be good accompaniments but I prefer keeping things a little lighter, and simpler. A thick slice of sourdough bread toasted with some garlic and olive oil would be a nice way to dip across the sauce.

A bowl of this stew come winter is the perfect reprieve from the blazing cold, and the most lovely way to warm up.

Moroccan Cheek Meat and Oxtail Stew


4 cups boiling water

2lb. cheek meat

1lb. oxtail meat

6 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 bell peppers, sliced

4 dried chile peppers, rinsed

2 15oz. cans chickpeas, well rinsed

1/2 cup olive oil

1 heaping tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon cumin

1/2 tablespoon sea salt

chopped cilantro


  1. In a 5 quart dutch oven over medium heat, pour the water and bring to a boil. Add the meats, garlic, bell pepper and chile pepper. Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 45 minutes. 
  2. Add the chickpeas, oil, paprika, cumin, and salt. Give everything a gentle stir, cover. Cook for an addition 90-120 minutes. Add the chopped cilantro a few minutes before the end. Serve hot.