What’s cooking today: Oxtail soup with red pepper, chickpeas & corn
Here’s a meaty soup redolent of the steamy countries of salsa and samba to warm our southern winter nights.
Nothing says “comfort food” more than oxtail, and here’s a double dose in a soup that celebrates oxtail in all its gelatinous, richly satisfying glory. This cut of beef, like all good things, needs time for the tough meat to break down and become soft and sensuous.
500 g oxtail, cut into thin pieces (about 1.5 cm thick)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced very small
2 or 3 leeks (depending on their size), sliced thinly
1 celery stick, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 x 400 g can chopped tomatoes
1 x 400 g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp paprika
3 bay leaves
1 litre water
300 ml chicken or beef stock
250 ml/ ½ cup semi-sweet or full cream sherry, depending on your sweet tooth
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 mielie/ corn on the cob
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped coriander leaves to garnish
Sauté the onion, carrot, leeks, celery and garlic in a little olive oil until soft, simmer for 5 more minutes while stirring, then add the chopped tomatoes, drained chickpeas, chilli flakes, bay leaves and paprika, and heat through.
Add the water and stock and the oxtail, bring to a boil and reduce to a very low simmer. Season with salt, and simmer with the lid on the pot for at least five hours. Check the liquid levels every now and then, and top up with more water if necessary.
After four or five hours, or when the meat is nearing optimum tenderness but not quite there, heat the sherry and stir it in, and add the kernels of 1 mielie/ corn on the cob, and the diced red bell pepper. Check seasoning and add salt if needed, and ground black pepper to taste.
Let it continue cooking on a low heat until the total duration is as long as six or seven hours, or until the meat is perfectly tender, but do watch in case the liquid cooks away too much. Don’t judge the duration in time; it’s done when the oxtail meat is fall-off-the-bones tender.
Anyone who has cooked oxtail knows that seven hours is not an outlandish duration at all; it might well take as long as that. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. DM/TGIFood
To enquire about Tony Jackman’s book, foodSTUFF (Human & Rousseau) please email him at [email protected]
SUBSCRIBE: Our Thank God It’s Food newsletter is sent to subscribers every Friday at 6pm, and published on the TGIFood platform on Daily Maverick. It’s all about great reads on the themes of food and life. Subscribe here.