What’s cooking today: All-day oxtail stew
An oxtail stew is easy but not quick. It’s probably the toughest meat to get perfectly tender. Luckily, the one ingredient you need to achieve that tenderness is readily available: time.
Bacon, rosemary, tomato, orange, wine; these are things that suit the robust nature of oxtail, a cut of meat with great potential for a delicious result but which is not for the impatient.
Oxtail is supremely gelatinous, and that, once perfect tenderness has been achieved, works its magic on the texture and flavour of the entire dish. Everything about oxtail is about that bone and gelatine. But, however long you think you might want to cook it for, add an extra hour or two. There are no short cuts here.
I have a long history of using red wine, bacon and orange (juice and zest) in a beef dish – it’s an odd little marriage of flavours which combines well and suits the meat. To liven it up near the end of the long cook, a generous ladle of good Port brings everything together.
(Serves 3 or 4)
2 kg oxtail
1 large onion, chopped
3 or 4 rosemary sprigs
200 g fatty bacon, chopped
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1 litre of beef stock
½ a bottle dry red wine
1 x 400 g can of chopped tomatoes
800 g pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks
3 orange sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
200 ml good quality Port such as Cape Tawny
Salt to taste
Back pepper to taste
2 tsp cornflour dissolved in 2 Tbsp water
Cook the bacon in a dry pan, stirring, until it releases its fats, then add the chopped onion and cook the onion and bacon together until the former is softened. If there’s not enough bacon fat, add a bit of olive oil or butter.
Add the chunks of oxtail and cook, stirring to coat with the onion and bacon, for a few minutes.
Add the beef stock, rosemary, wine, orange zest and juice and chopped tomatoes, bring to a boil and then lower to a slow simmer. Season with salt and pepper, give it a stir, put the lid on and let it cook gently for many hours, on the lowest possible heat. Mine went in at 9.30am and cooked for the rest of the day.
At 3pm I added the chunks of pumpkin and sweet potato. At around 5pm I added the port, brought it back to a simmer and let it continue cooking for an hour.
Finally, the additional step that turns an ordinary stew into something very special: put a large fine sieve or colander over a large bowl or pot, and pour off the liquid into it. Return any bits of food caught in the colander or sieve back to the pot.
Reduce this sauce down in a suitable heavy pot on a high heat until it is well reduced and luscious. It should have a much darker hue than when you first start boiling it. Stir in the dissolved cornflour and simmer, stirring, until the sauce thickens. You don’t really need anything else with this stew, but mashed potato or polenta would work well. I did make a simple carrot salad, for the photo more than anything. It makes a nice crisp contrast to the hearty stew; just grate a carrot and squeeze orange juice into it, with a little salt and black pepper. Serve sauce with each portion, but leave some for serving in a jug to add to plates. It’s that delicious; they’ll want more. DM/TGIFood
Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Champion 2021. His book, foodSTUFF, is available in the DM Shop. Buy it here.
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