Oxtail

Oxtail

I remember the first time I heard someone refer to oxtail as offal. I was appalled. I was a little girl who most certainly did not eat anything like offal… and I LOVED oxtail. Funny how we all have certain notions about food and not only as children. Now I am all grown up and although I feel quite passionately about the merits of nose to tail eating if you are going to eat meat, I am still no fan of most offal; truth be told I’m still afraid to eat most of it! Oxtail has become very popular, my granny used to get it from the butcher for next to nothing – yes, as offal. It was food for poor people apparently. Foolish rich! These days it is a different story. You see it on restaurant menus everywhere and the price has followed its popularity. It is cheaper to buy this cut in the summer months, but the winter is really when you want to tuck into this warming dish. This is slowfood. Do not rush it. If you are going to eat oxtail you need to be able to suck the bones clean as a whistle, enjoying every last bit of jelly. You can’t do that if you rush it. I am not familiar with pressure cookers, but friends of ours like to do theirs that way. I know Heston does his in a pressure cooker too and then of course has all his tricks to make it taste like it wasn’t cooked in one. For me this is the best way. I love the meditative nature of cooking food for an evening feast for the whole day, it makes it seem all the more… indulgent. Remember, quantities are only a guide here. Play. I ask the guys at Braeside to advise me on how much meat to get depending on how many guests we have, but you’ll want to have leftovers of this one, trust me.

 

Ingredients:

Oxtail

A few Tbl flour

Salt & pepper

2 onions chopped

3 sticks celery chopped

3 carrots chopped

Garlic

2 tins chopped tomatoes

Baby tomatoes (optional)

1 bottle red wine

Stock on standby

Rosemary

1 tin butter beans (drained)

Flat-leaf parsley

Olive oil

Grapeseed oil for frying

 

Method:

If you have baby tomatoes, turn the oven up to 200°. Tumble your punnett of tomatoes into an ovenproof dish, drizzle generously with olive oil and season well. Pop it into the oven to roast. You have to keep an eye on them, I don’t have a time. In my opinion you want them shriveled and sticky, just starting to catch ever so slightly. Let them cook while you get started on the meat and when they are done, turn the oven off, remove them and set aside.

Get started on browning your meat. Put the flour into a large ziplock or plastic packet and season well. Pat your meat pieces dry, put them into the packet and evenly coat. I use my granny’s old cast iron casserole to make this dish, use something with a nice thick bottom and a lid, heat it up till very hot and put in a couple of glugs of grapeseed oil. Brown your oxtail in batches, taking care not to crowd them as then they’ll stew and want them nice and brown and crispy at this stage. If you have a little leftover seasoned flour, don’t throw away, add it after frying off the veggies. Remove from the pot and set aside. Tip your onion, carrot and celery into the pot, turning the heat down if need be – you don’t want the mirepoix to burn – stir gently so it all gets coated and fries gently in the flavourful oil until nice and tender. As the onions start turning translucent add your chopped garlic and your leftover flour, give a stir and a few more minutes before adding the oxtail, wine, tomatoes and your rosemary. I make a little bed for the oxtail, I like to cover it with some veggies and make sure it is submerged under the liquid. If not, add a little stock. I bring this to a gentle boil on the stove before putting on the lid and popping it into the still warm oven. Turn the heat up to 140° and leave for the next 4-8 hours. Check every hour or so to see if it is running too dry, if top up with a little stock. Stir gently every now and then to evenly rotate the contents from the top to the bottom. About an hour before serving I scatter the drained butter beans on top. The shortest I have ever done this is 4 hours and then I turned the heat up at times to 160°, but it is best prepared in the morning for that evening. When the meat is starting to fall off the bone and you are ready, remove from the oven and ever so gently stir in the chopped parsley and roasted tomatoes before serving. The dish is so scorchingly hot, the tomatoes heat up in no time. In cooking this dish I cram in as many vegetables as I can. So I keep it simple when it comes to serving. Nothing is needed but the creamiest mash known to man and buttered squeaky green beans. Oh, and for me, this needs wine. I don’t know… something like a Steenberg Shiraz maybe? In any event, something robust and good and utterly delicious to share with your grateful guests. Tell me about winter blues now. Enjoy!

 

 

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