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