To my knowledge, I only ever ate oxtail once when I was growing up, when our Filipino exchange student’s grandmother was visiting and doing all the cooking around graduation time. Next to all the other exotic foods we sampled, it didn’t make much impression on me. I never thought about it again, until a couple of years ago when the beef farmer at the market had one on his stall. I picked it up out of sheer curiosity, bought it and started researching.
After some experimentation, I discovered that oxtail benefits from being slow cooked in a minimum of liquid (this is ‘braising’), with vegetables and spices suitable for stew. I think of these vegetables as flavouring rather than as vegetable portions when planning my whole meal. A slow cooker is ideal for this dish, as the liquid does not evaporate and all the flavour is retained. Just be sure to keep the lid on as much as possible even during the preparation stage, so as to retain the maximum heat.
There’s a fair amount of natural fat in oxtail, so the resulting dish is quite rich and is complemented well if served with a bland starch such as plain noodles, white rice or baking powder biscuits and a fresh green vegetable on the side for contrast.
|1||Broccoli stalk (peeled if very tough )|
|1 tablespoon||Olive oil|
|1||Oxtail (about 2 pounds), separated|
|1 cup||Beef stock (your own or from bouillon/stock cube)|
|1 glass||Rich red wine, such as Shiraz|
- Preheat empty slow cooker on high with lid on.
- Clean vegetables and cut all into pencil thick pieces of fairly uniform lengths.
- Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan.
- Saute vegetables just until they take on some colour and are steaming well.
- Transfer vegetables to slow cooker, keeping as much fat/juice in the pan as possible. Replace lid on slow cooker.
- Brown oxtail pieces on all sides in the dregs of fat/vegetable juice.
- Meanwhile, heat stock to boil and put bay leaf and peppercorns in stock.
- Transfer oxtail with juices to slow cooker; pour stock over. Replace lid.
- Deglaze frying pan with red wine and pour hot wine over contents of slow cooker. Replace lid again.
- Cook on high for the first two hours, then reduce to low (NOT ‘keep warm’) for 4-5 hours more. If you won’t be around to reduce the heat, set it to low once everything is in the cooker, and allow a few more hours to cook.
TIP: You can easily remove both large and small bones before serving if you want to make a little stock afterwards. Because the initial dish is slow cooked in a minimum of liquid, there is still plenty of goodness in them.