So, the damp weather was looking like it was going to continue, and my yearning for comfort food followed the same pattern. I love casseroles and braised dishes with lots of sauce to be slurped up with a spoon or soaked up with bread or creamy mashed potato. It was time to make something warm and comforting. A hug in a casserole dish.
Oxtail used to be, I understand, a cheap and cheerful cut of meat to buy. It needs long and slow cooking, so this probably influenced the price. It now seems, from my recent visits to the UK, to be a bit of a “gastro pub” highlight and the price has correspondingly increased. Even in Spain, where it´s sold as “Bull´s Tail” it´s no longer that cheap a cut of meat to buy. But hey, sometimes you´re worth that little bit extra and it´s that delicious, it´s worth all the love and long cooking it needs.
I made a large pot of this delicious casserole which gave me 2-3 main portions plus enough meaty sauce left over to give me a further 2 hearty bowls of oxtail flavoured soup.
Here´s what you need:
- 1 ox tail, cut into slices. Your butcher should do this, or it will come ready prepared. Mine weighed about 1.2kg
- 3 medium carrots, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 medium courgettes, diced
- 2 sticks of celery, diced
- 3 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 jar or tin of cannellini beans
- 1 tin of tomatoes, crushed or chopped
- 2 heaped teaspoons of tomato puree
- 1 bottle of red wine, less a glass for the cook
- 1 mug of water or stock (beef, chicken or vegetable)
- Salt and pepper
- Approx 2 tablespoons of plain flour
- 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
- A large, deep, ovenproof dish with a lid
First prepare all your vegetables and put them to one side. No need to keep them separate as they´ll be cooked together.
Now coat your pieces of ox tail in flour and after heating the olive oil in the ovenproof dish, brown them on all sides. Don´t rush this part as, if you over crowd the pan, the meat will steam and not brown. Put the ox tail to one side.
In the same pan, and with the oil that remains, add the diced vegetables and make sure they all get coated in oil. Put the lid on and let them sweat for about 5 minutes.
Turn your oven on low (about gas mark 2).
Put the meat back into the pot, add the beans, tomatoes and tomato puree, stir and bring it up to a simmer.
Now add the wine and water, season lightly (you can adjust this when the dish has finished cooking) and bring it to a simmer once more.
Put a lid on the pot, and the whole thing now goes into the oven where it will cook slowly for at least 4 hours. I like the sauce to thicken a little so it usually ends up cooking for 5-6 hours. It won´t dry out, you have plenty of liquid in there. Every couple of hours check on it and give it a stir. If it does look like it´s getting too dry for your taste, add a mug of boiling water.
When the cooking time is up (and it´s a very forgiving dish), take it out and check for seasoning. If it´s too liquid, simmer on the hob to reduce a little. You can eat it immediately if you wish, but it´s a dish which really does improve if left until the next day. Leave to cool completely. If you find your have a layer of fat on the top the next day, you can remove this before heating up and serving.
It looks like a lot of meat, but it´s nearly all bone. How many it serves depends on how hungry you are and how much sauce, vegetables and potatoes you serve it with. Any leftover sauce and can be diluted slightly with stock or water and served as a filling soup another day.