Oxtail stew with Cinnamon and Star Anise

I wasn’t a big fan of oxtail, though I have discovered the pleasures of ox cheeks thanks to Heston Blumenthal. However, oxtail can be succulent and tender, especially when slowly braised with lots of onions and red wine. Cinnamon and star anise give it an extra flavour dimension that cuts the richness a little. This recipe works well with lamb shanks, and shanks or shoulder of veal and venison too, though with these you’ll probably want to leave out the chocolate. The stew improves with keeping so, if you can, make it a day or two in advance. I made it on Friday night and served it on Sunday.



IMG_7850, originally uploaded by alecmuffett.

The full set of photos is here.

Serves 6–8

Ingredients
2kg oxtail (about 2 tails), cut into slices 4–5cm thick
2 tablespoons sunflower or groundnut oil
3 onions, sliced
1 bottle of red wine
2–3 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
Thinly pared zest of 1 orange
750ml–1 litre beef stock
25g dark chocolate (about 70 per cent cocoa solids), optional
1–2 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Season the oxtail with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large, heavybased flameproof casserole and fry the meat over a medium-high heat in batches, so as not to overcrowd the pan, until browned on all sides. Remove the browned oxtail with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Reduce the heat to low and gently cook the onions in the casserole for 15–20 minutes, until soft and translucent. Return the meat, raise the heat, then pour in the wine and let it bubble until slightly reduced. Add the cinnamon, star anise, bay leaves, peppercorns, orange zest and enough stock just to cover the meat.

Bring to a slow simmer and cook very gently, partially covered, for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more stock as necessary to keep the oxtail moist. When it is ready, the meat should be falling off the bone. (You can also cook it in a low oven at 120°C/Gas Mark ½ with a lid on, if it’s more convenient.)

Drain the meat in a colander set over a bowl, to catch the liquid, then pass the liquid through a fine sieve into a clean pan. Boil until slightly thickened and glossy, then skim off most of the fat. If you’d like to take the meat off the bones, do so once it’s cooled a bit. Discard the cinnamon, star anise and bay leaves, return the meat to the pan, then stir in the chocolate, if using. The chocolate added rich and spicy flavour to the dish, definitely a winner.

If serving straight away, warm through; otherwise, leave to cool and keep in the fridge for a day or two, then reheat slowly and simmer for a minute or two. Check the seasoning before serving, with creamy mash or noodles and a scattering of chopped parsley if you like.

I found this in the Sunday Telegraph (main paper not their magazine) but can’t see it in their online edition. It is a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Every Day by (Bloomsbury £25).

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Pork belly with soy and star anise recipe

A recent find via the Telegraph recipes, a succulent dish of pork belly and aromatic ingredients such as star anise, chilli, ginger and garlic. I made it in the last throes of cold weather in the UK – it seemed to be a winter dish but the ginger lifts it to any season.

As it happens the cold, if sunny, spell continues so perhaps time to make it again.

 

IMG_7803, originally uploaded by alecmuffett.

The full set of photos is here.

Ingredients:

1.5kg (3lb 5oz) pork belly, bones removed, rind on
125ml (4fl oz) dark soy sauce
75ml (2¾fl oz) Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
25ml (¾fl oz) rice vinegar
2 tbsp soft light-brown sugar
5cm (2in) piece root ginger, peeled and finely sliced (I added twice that much as we love ginger!)
3 star anise
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 red chilli, halved, deseeded and finely sliced (as usual, I added one more chilli)
12 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal (I didn’t have spring onions so used one red onion finely chopped)

Cut the belly into chunks about 5cm (2in) square. Put in a saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for five minutes. Skim off any scum. Strain the pork , rinse the pan and put the pork back in. Add about 1.5 litres (2 pints 15fl oz) fresh water (or light chicken stock ), plus all the other ingredients, setting aside half the spring onions . Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer, cover tightly and leave to cook very gently for two hours, or until the pork is completely tender. Make sure it doesn’t boil dry – add more water if you need to.

Scoop out the pork with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reduce the liquor by boiling until you have a good flavour. Return the pork to the liquid and heat through. Serve in bowls with the rest of the spring onions sprinkled over the top. Serve with noodles or boiled rice, plus some kind of stir-fried greens – cabbage or pak choi. I got a bag of vegetables from M&S, which I quickly stir-fried with some oyster sauce.

Update: I made it again and this time I reduced the liquor to a syrupy reduction. This turns the dish from nice to fantastic!

Buffalo wings

On my trips to New York, I finally decided to taste and test as many as I could. In one week, I must have tried 2 or 3 places and I was pleasantly surprised by the heat and amount of meat this bar food has.

I managed to get large amounts of chicken wings from my local butchers – the first time I didn’t realise that each wing counted by the butcher is actually two pieces on the table. You need to snip off the wing tips at the first joint and then the remaining piece in two again approximately at the joint. So ordering 15 wings, let’s say for 3 people, turns into 10 pieces each, enough for a main course with bread to soak up the sauce, blue cheese dip and celery. And beer!

Ingredients:
serves 3

15 whole chicken wings

1/2 bottle of buffalo wing sauce (I use Wing Time Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce from my local Partriges. It is powerfully hot and we were feeling it! So for most I’d recommend the medium even mild versions).
bunch of celery sticks
blue cheese dip (recipe below)

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (I usually add a lot more cheese than this. Last time I made this I used some old Stilton that was too cultured to be eaten straight and the sauce was good enough to bottle and sell, as one of my guests kept saying!)
salt and pepper

I prefer to grill the wings, there is plenty of fat in the chicken skins, no need to add more artery clogging material. I heat the grill to medium/high. Baste the wings with sauce – keep enough aside to keep basting it every time you turn them. (Also, remember that as the sauce has been in contact with raw chicken make sure you use it only for cooking and never as additional sauce afterwards.)

Grill the wings for 20-25 mins in 5 minutes intervals, turning them over and basting them with more sauce. It’s a lot of turning but it’s worth it.