What’s cooking today: Tamarind Oxtail

What’s cooking today: Tamarind Oxtail
Oxtail stewed for many hours with tamarind and a mélange of spices. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Anyone who’s cooked oxtail knows it needs longer cooking than almost any other meat. But start early, and keep a vague eye on the pot while you go about your day, and you’ll have a fine old cold-weather supper.

This recipe has many ingredients with flavour impact, but the hero is the sweetly-sour mystery we call tamarind. 


1.5 kg to 2 kg oxtail 

1 large onion, chopped 

3 cloves garlic, chopped 

3 carrots, chopped 

3 or 4 leeks, sliced 

2 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into short matchsticks

1 Tbsp fenugreek seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle 

1 tsp turmeric 

1 tsp ground coriander 

3 bay leaves 

5 blades of mace (or substitute a grinding of nutmeg)

3 red chillies, sliced thinly 

2 Tbsp tomato purée 

2 Tbsp tamarind, dissolved in 2 x 400 g cans (see tomatoes below) 

2 x 400 g cans chopped tomatoes 

150 g dates, chopped 

150 g sultanas 

Salt and pepper to taste 

3 Tbsp coconut oil 

1 heaped tsp cornflour dissolved in 2 Tbsp cold water or milk


This all happens over a low heat. 

Peel and chop the onions, carrots and garlic, slice the leeks and ginger. Melt coconut oil in a deep, heavy pot and sauté the onions, carrots, leeks, garlic and ginger together for 2 or 3 minutes, then throw in the fenugreek, turmeric, coriander, mace, bay leaves and chillies, and simmer over a low heat for a few minutes for the flavours to develop. 

Add the tomato purée and stir with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes for its acidic bite to be tempered. 

Add the pieces of oxtail, stir to coat well, and braise, stirring, for 3 or 4 minutes. The oxtail does not need to be browned first. 

Add the cans of chopped tomatoes, then put 1 Tbsp of tamarind pulp in each can, fill it with cold water, stir well and then stir into the pot. 

Stir in the dates and sultanas and season with salt and pepper to taste. You can adjust the seasoning later on in the cook. 

Cover, bring to a simmer and cook on a very low heat for 7 or 8 hours. The longer, pretty much the better. 

It will begin to catch many times during the day. Whenever the sauce thickens (by reduction) without the oxtail being yet tender, add a little boiled water, stir, and continue cooking gently.

Once it is perfectly tender, if the sauce is not pleasingly thick, stir in cornflour mixed with water or milk and let it simmer until it thickens. Serve with rice, mashed potato, polenta, as you like. DM/TGIFood 

To enquire about Tony Jackman’s book, foodSTUFF (Human & Rousseau) please email him at [email protected] 

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