Oxtail is perfect for slow cooking, in fact, it’s pretty much the only way to cook it. On the bone it will be full of flavour and the gelatin will give a silky, rich sauce.
For this dish you’ll want 2 decent sized pieces of oxtail per person. Preheat the oven to around 150c.
First you’ll need to prepare the veg – carrot, onion and celery. Roughly chop the onion and celery – they will melt down in the cooking. The carrots should be cut with a little more care as they will retain their shape. Use an oblique cut – cut at 45 degrees, turn through 90 degrees and make another 45 degree cut and so on.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and soften the veg for 10 – 15 minutes until cooked but not fried – keep the oil at a medium heat.
Brown off each oxtail in a pan of hot oil – 1 or 2 at a time to keep the heat in the oil. I don’t bother adding seasoning or flour at this point – I do this later if and when required.
Once browned, put to the side and continue to brown the rest of the oxtail.
Pour half a bottle of red wine (I used a Rioja) into the veg and allow to reduce for a couple of minutes.
Add the oxtail and add enough beef stock to cover the meat. Add a good splash of Worcestershire sauce, a good twist of black pepper and a teaspoon or 2 of English mustard.
Add a couple of bay leaves and a sprig of thyme (the flowers are perfectly edible).
I use a paper lid – a cartouche – to cook this dish – it allows the sauce to reduce and thicken but still protects the meat.
Take a square of grease-proof paper big enough to cover the dish. Fold in half and half again and then fold diagonally a couple of time to form a thin triangle shape.
Cut the thick end of the triangle so that, unfolded, the paper covers the meat. I also cut the tip off the triangle so as to make a small hole in the centre to allow some moisture to escape and help the sauce reduce and thicken.
Cook in the oven for at least 4 hours. The meat should fall off the bone when pressed with a fork.
If you find the sauce needs to reduce more, you can remove the meat from the sauce and place the pan onto the hob and reduce further. Either way, it is at this point that you’ll need to add some salt and fine-tune the sauce. Maybe more pepper, mustard or Worcestershire sauce to your liking.
Finish with some finely chopped curly leaf parsley – I prefer the texture of the curly leaf parsley with this rich, silky dish – it seems to add more crunch.. in a way.
By John Loydall