Oxtail Stew a la mecci

Well, where to begin. So many things need thinking through, weighing, measuring and articulating.

I love food. A lot.

I also love cooking.

So here is my recipe for Oxtail stew. If you have not tried Oxtail stew I urge yo to do so soonest. You will not come across a more flavoursome stew anywhere.

As you are cooking ensure that you are constantly tasting what you are cooking. This will allow you to fine tune your dish to perfection.

You will need the following.

Ingredients:

About 4 kilos of oxtail (get your butcher to chop the tail up for you)

Olive oil

Butter

2 large onions, chopped finely (any onion you like – I have used red, brown and yellow onions – they all work)

3 celery sticks, chopped finely (each stick about 30 cm long)

3 large carrots, finely chopped

1 bottle of good red wine (remember you should always cook with the wine you drink – A Cab Sav or Shiraz is good for this dish)

100 ml of Port (Muscat or Tawny are good too)

3 whole cloves garlic, leave the peel on

3 Tablespoons of raw or brown sugar

Three bay leaves

Thyme (a bunch) – chopped finely

Parsley (a bunch) – chopped finely

Salt and pepper (to taste – do not under season this dish)

For the roasting tray:

2 parsnips, chopped into cubes

2 turnips, chopped into cubes

2 potatoes, chopped into cubes

Olive oil

Pepper

Salt

For the mashed potatoes:

2 kilos of potatoes – peeled and chopped into quarters (choose potatoes that are recommended for mashed potatoes, do not use waxy potatoes such as Kipfler.)

Butter (~100-150 grams)

Salt (to taste)

Milk (~50ml – check the consistency of the mash before you add the milk – the mash must not be runny – it should retain some firmness)

Truffle oil (a tablespoon – choose a truffle oil that has actual truffle in the bottle – both white or black truffle will work fine.)

The cooking:

You will need a very large cast iron pot to cook this in.

Lightly flour the oxtail pieces. Place to the side.

Place the pot on the stove on medium heat.

Add a good splash of oil and a good dollop of butter.

Add pepper and salt.

As the oil and butter brown add single pieces of the oxtail. Do not overcrowd the pot.

Take the browned oxtail pieces out and set them aside on a plate.

Once all oxtail pieces have been browned nicely, add the chopped onions and garlic cloves to the pot.

As the onions are starting to brown, add the chopped celery and carrots. You do want to let the carrots caramelise a little. Add some of the sugar at this point (about half).

Add half a bottle of wine when the carrots have caramelised a little. (Make sure you do not burn the onions.)

Add the meat back into the pot, add the three bay leaves, the chopped thyme and parsley and the rest of the wine. Stir all ingredients through.

Add about 100 ml of Port (Tawny or Muscat will work as well).

Add the rest of the sugar.

Taste the cooking liquid and season to taste. Bring to a simmer.

Place the lid on the pot.

Let it cook for about 4 hours on a low heat.

Check every 30 minutes or so and stir to make sure the bottom does not burn (too badly).

Once the meat is tender and separates from the bone and all the fat and ligament has rendered the meat is done.

Take it off the heat and put it aside.

At this point you want to, ideally, let the meat cool completely. In fact you might want to put it in the fridge, once the pot has cooled down sufficiently. After a few hours in the fridge you will be able to scrape the majority of the fat from the top. (You want to leave some fat for flavours’ sake.)

It is now time to preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Also place you turnips, parsnips and potatoes on the roasting tray. (I suggest you underlay some baking paper and liberally splash olive oil, pepper and salt over the diced root vegetables.)

Back to the pot – once you have removed the fat, take the meat off the bones and place on a plate or in a bowl. Cover.

Start boiling the water in a separate pot for your potatoes. (For the mash) Make sure there is enough water to completely cover the potatoes.

Place your root vegetables into the oven and let them roast for about an hour. Do not burn them.

Liquify the cooking liquid (now that all the meat has been removed) by heating it gently.

Once it is all liquid again, strain the liquid through a sieve back into the pot. Discard all solids caught in the sieve.

For the mash. Add the potatoes to the boiling water. They will take about 30 minutes on full boil.

Back to the pot. Add the meat back into the pot and bring cooking liquid and meat to a simmer.

Once your root vegetables are nicely roasted add them to the pot and let them simmer in with the meat.

Take your boiled potatoes off the stove (you can check if they are done with a fork – if the fork does not encounter much resistance they are done) and discard the water.

Place the pot upon a stable surface add a little milk, butter and salt to the potatoes and start mashing. Nothing beats really well hand mashed potato mash. Once your mash has the consistency you like, add the truffle oil and mash a little more.

That’s it, you are done! You can now feed about 6 hungry people.

Bon Appetite!

Ramblings

It is good to think. For yourself.

Most of us have given up on that. We take what we are being presented with as the truth. Not much of it is. TV, Radio, really any form of mass media or communication only have one product. They only sell one thing. That one thing is you.

The audience.

The only reason there is content is to make you watch. You will be exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of different product placements every day. The very fabric of your reality is determined by advertising and the pursuit of your money.

Make no mistake, they know what makes us tick.

Yesterday I was taking an escalator. It was going down. On my left they were advertising sunglasses on a poster. A semi naked young woman was embracing a young man. She had her back to the audience, the young man was facing you. He was wearing the sunglasses, of course.

Really?

We are that dumb now?

As you are the product, you might wonder who the customer is. Everybody who wants to sell you something. Everybody.

They spent billions in an attempt to earn trillions. And they are succeeding.

Along the way this particular end has become the only end. We are, for better or for worse, a total consumer society. All our culture, our once noble pursuits, our science our art. They are all geared to sell more things no one really needs.

One of the greatest achievements recently, was the extremely high altitude jump from the edge of space. Sponsored by Redbull. Wow.

A softdrink company has a better space program than most nations.

I do not mean to be too negative but it is hard to see your way past the inevitable. We are becoming creatively barren. No art for art’s sake anymore. It is all driven by the mindless need to consume and make you consume more and more. Without end.

We live on a planet with finite resources. Unlimited growth is a dangerous fallacy. We will consume ourselves to death. The need for greater and greater profits and more and more stuff will, eventually, be the end of us.

Think for yourself. Do you really need that thing that you feel you must have? Really?

How about just sitting down and writing down your thoughts. You could start blogging…

Movies

I love movies. Most movies anyway. There are some I hate.

But this is not that blog.

This blog is about movies I adore.

Storytelling is as old as time. In the long forgotten days of yore when weary travelers, merchants, adventurers and innkeepers would sit around a fireplace or cooking fire to trade stories and news from far distant lands, there was an art to the telling of the story.

It had to be interesting, engaging, maybe even a little bombastic and perched just on the edge of disbelief. Stories like that that have survived to this day are the adventures of Sindbad, Gulliver and Munchhausen. They, in my humble opinion, represent the best of the craft.

These days that art is almost lost. Especially in movies. Special effects and pretty faces have replaced the simple elegance of a good story.

Jack Lemmon said (in the 80s) that he could make 5 great movies with the blood and special effects budget from Terminator. ***I am not disparaging Terminator – actually quite liked the original*** But the point Jack made stands.

So here are the movies I adore. They have complex, interesting and at times surprising story lines. The characters are rich and layered, they draw you in. You start caring. You hate them, you love them, you feel for and with them.

Casablanca – Bogie and Bergmann, love lost, found and lost again. One of the best ending scenes in movie history. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship….

The man from Earth – Truly a surprise when I first watched it. This is the kind of movie that makes you wish you could watch it over and over again for the first time. A very strong and engaging story, with clever conversation and a number of twists. The final twist though was the most rewarding.

The Shawshank Redemption – Brilliant acting and a truly epic story of one man’s will to live and overcome. The final 20 minutes of this movie are magic and amongst the most rewarding I have had the pleasure to spent in a cinema.

Don Camillo and Pepone – An Italian classic, black and white, set just after World War II. It is the kind of cinema that fills you with joy at being alive. I strongly urge you to watch this movie, it is well worth the subtitles (in case you do not like subtitles).

They live – Odd choice, you think? I am a big fan of John Carpenter movies. He breaks the mold of Hollywood. No happy endings, no final justice – for the most part anyway. This movie speaks to me on a very personal level and represents one of the best cinematic attacks on our over-bloated consumer society I have come across. Apart from other, deeper layers of meaning and understanding.

Spirited away – A triumph. Miyazaki did everything right in this astonishing and enchanted tour de force. I was blown away. I wanted to be there. I longed to be in the spirit world. It all felt oddly familiar. This movie tapped into something deep and hidden within me.

There are more movies I love, but these are the ones I would pack on a one way trip to Mars.

I am sure you have similar lists, and hey, it might just be time to re-watch one of those old favourites. What do you think?

The adventures of Technicolor man in Greyland

There is a land not far away. The land of the grey. Just around that bend.

Grey men live in grey houses, thinking grey thoughts all day long in Greyland.

They eat grey meals and drink grey beer and make merry at a game of grey on grey.

Philosophy is sport in the land of grey. Incessant is the argument of the merits of grey and being grey, much better grey than black or white. They can’t change their stripes. Dogmatic are the black and white. Dogmatic to a fault. Shades of grey are much more tolerant and see life for what it really is, an endless sea of grey.

Greyland is content and the great day of grey is fast approaching. Many visitors are expected for great grey festivities. From far and wide will they roam. Some say even the Opaque might come.

On the day of days a  man like no other came. A man of strange and bewildering appearance. What manner of grey is he? He is not black or white, certainly not opaque. Strangeness upon strangeness.

Technicolor man strode about in technicolor brilliance. Confusing and befuddling where he went.

Some grey men could not see him for all his color. He was too far from grey.

The grey authorities saw him causing puzzlement, disturbing the unity of grey. Contentment was in danger. The grey men had to act.

Of course.

Technicolor man will be buried at the first grey of dawn.

The End