Oxtail

The Good Lord was wise in his creation. Took a few days to get it right, but you gotta give it to him – he made a damned good job of the cow. All those steaks and joints and all. Good beef for frying and grilling and stewing. Keeps foodies and carnivores the world over quiet.

But he hid the BEST in the bit nobody wants to eat, at the cheap end …

… and let only a chosen few into the secret.

Melt-in-the-mouth, unctuous, and oh-so-rich in flavour. Soul food.

Keep the basic cooking simple. Cooking an oxtail for a single person might seem extravagant, but I get four, maybe five, portions to freeze for later meals. Then I might add butter beans, or spinach, or a chopped chilli … or whatever, for a bit of a change.

Ingredients

  • 1 oxtail – ain’t no way of measuring the weight you need; get yourself down to the butchers, and get “enough”. Let’s say a medium oxtail. Your butcher should cut it into sections for you.
    • Many recipes suggest trimming the pieces of excess fat. I don’t – I love the texture and flavour. Your call
  • a mix of 2 tbsp flour, salt, pepper, and dried mustard to coat the meat
  • 3-4 carrots (peeled and sliced)
  • 2 sticks celery (sliced)
  • 1 large onion (peeled and chopped)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • herbs – anything from 2 tsp mixed dried herbs, to what you have in the way of fresh thyme, oregano, marjoram, and rosemary
  • 1 tin of tomatoes, or 1-2 tbsp tomato puree

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.
  • Shake the oxtail pieces in the seasoned flour to coat. Heat some oil in a frying pan, and brown the pieces of meat very well – you want them to be a deep, rich, dark brown. Do this in several batches.
  • Move the browned meat to an ovenproof casserole dish.
  • Add the peeled and sliced/chopped vegetables to the frying pan, and fry gently for 5-10 minutes in the meat fat and juices until softening – you may need to add extra oil. Add to the meat in the casserole dish.
  • Pour about ¼ pint of water (or wine) into the hot frying pan, use it to lift the residues, and pour over the meat and veg in the casserole.
  • Add another ½ pint of water, or stock. Also add the tomatoes/tomato puree, and the herbs and seasonings.
  • Cover the casserole, and pop into the oven; leave to cook gently for 3-4 hours, except for stirring the casserole and turning the oxtail pieces over about half way through.
  • The stew is ready when the meat is falling off the bones. Serve – with mashed potatoes. Lots of good mash – to mop up the thick and unctious gravy.
     

  • Or … do it Jamaican style? Thyme as your herb of choice, with a Scotch Bonnet pepper (or maybe only half of it; or add a chopped small green chilli as well?), ½ tsp of allspice, and be very generous with your fresh-ground black pepper.
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