Thursday, 29 November 2012
Oxtail stew: soothing and so simple
I've had a few memorable meals out recently, but there aren't many things that beat a soothing home-cooked supper. At this time of year a rich, hearty casserole goes down really well and you can leave it to cook itself. In this instance, we went to the theatre for a matinee performance of The Lion King while our stew cooked.
This recipe is based on the one in the Leith's Cookery Bible. They suggest cooking in two stages – two hours, then skimming, adding the tomato purée and lemon juice and cooking for another three hours. I prefer to simply leave it alone for about 5 hours until the meat is tender and falling away from the bones. If you like you can take a peek from time to time and skim as necessary.
2 oxtails, cut into 5cm lengths (total weight about 1.35kg)
seasoned plain flour
30g beef dripping
340g carrots, thickly sliced
225g onions, sliced
150ml red wine
a large sprig of fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon tomato purée
a splash of balsamic vinegar
juice 1/2 lemon
Wash and dry the oxtail and toss in the seasoned flour. Fry the oxtail in the dripping, a few pieces at a time, turning them around so they gain plenty of colour. Place them in a large casserole dish. Brown the carrots and onions in the same pan and add them to the casserole. Pour the wine into the frying pan and allow it to bubble, scraping any bits off the bottom of the pan. Pour into the casserole and add the water. Add all the remaining ingredients, stir, cover and cook at 150°C/Gas Mark 2 for about 5 hours (see note in introduction).
Keeping things simple and wintery, and making the most of the unctuous gravy, I served the stew with suet dumplings. Make them according to the instructions on the packet and cook on the surface of the stew. All that leaves is perhaps another vegetable – an easy and very satisfying winter meal.
Any big hearty red will do nicely here – muscular and flavoursome. We had a gutsy Grenache-Syrah blend from the Languedoc.