Sometimes I get a little scared and nauseas in the meat section of the Queen Victoria Markets. I know it’s silly, but there are pig’s heads, and trotters and giant tongues stacked up upon one another. Sometimes I just have to get out of there and take a deep breath of crisp air before heading back in to purchase my oxtails. These plump little tails are worth any meat section induced anxieties.
Sarah and I cooked them in a giant Le Creuset pot for hours and hours on a Saturday afternoon. Seeing as I pulled my long alpaca gloves on for the first time early yesterday morning, it’s time to start thinking about slow cooked meals, soups and putting the oven on for warmth. This is the time of year when I’m excited about such things, not like the end of the season where all I’m yearning for is a crisp salad and a mango hot from the sun. The stew is beautifully fragrant with herbs. Over the cooking time the tails become tender, the meat falling from the bone. We served it very simply with mashed potatoes to soak up the stewy sauce.
Recipe adapted from Tessa Kiros, Falling Cloudberries.
2kg oxtail pieces
1 cup plain flour
6 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
3 carrots, roughly diced
2 celery stalks, roughly diced
2 onions, diced
1 cup red wine
2 sprigs of sage
2 bay leaves
3 parsley stalks, leaves removed
1 sprig of thyme
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the oxtail and boil for about 15 minutes, skimming away the scum that rises to the top. Drain and rinse the oxtail, then pat dry. Put the flour on a flat plate and lightly coat the oxtail on all sides.
Heat half the oil in a pot that has a lid and that can be transferred from stove to oven and fry the oxtail until golden on all sides. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper as you turn the pieces over. Brown in batches, if necessary, adding extra oil if needed, to ensure the flour does not burn. Set the oxtail aside.
Preheat the oven to 170C.
Heat the remaining oil and the butter. Add the onion and cook until transparent. Add all the remaining vegetables and a little salt and pepper and sauté for about 10 minutes, until softened. Add the wine and cook uncovered for a little longer until it has almost all evaporated. Return the oxtail to the pot and add the sage, bay leaves, parsley, with about 1.25 litres (5 cups) of hot water and a little more salt and pepper. Cover and put in the oven.
After the first hour, add some hot water to your pot, depending on how much has been absorbed – about a litre should do it. Continue cooking for another 2 ½ hours. Add another couple of cupfuls of water and cook for a final 30 – 40 minutes. It is really important not to add all the water at the beginning or you will end up with a soup.
You should have a meltingly soft dish: the meat should come away from the bone very easily, and there should be some thickened sauce and vegetables to serve with the meat. Serve with mashed potato.
Serves 8, with leftovers.