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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Roast beef with roast potatoes, parsnips & carrots

Last night I had a couple of friends over and at the last minute realised that the chicken I planned to make was two small for 4 people. So roast beef it was. I had all the ingredients so it was just a question of timing.

IMG_7745 by alecmuffett IMG_7746 by alecmuffett IMG_7748 by alecmuffett IMG_7749 by alecmuffett IMG_7751 by alecmuffett

Ingredients (serves 4):

1.2kg roasting beef
2 large parsnips
4 medium carrots
1-1/2 medium sized potatoes, quartered
rosemary
goose fat
salt and pepper
2 red onions
200ml red wine

First oil and season the beef and brown it in a heavy bottomed pan to seal it. I spiked it with bits of garlic afterwards but not essential. Put it on a rack and pour about 200ml of red wine in the pan, as it adds a bit of flavour to the meat as it evaporates. Cook it for 20 mins on high setting around 240C, then 30-35 minutes on 180C (10 minutes per pound rare times 1.2 per weight). After the first 20 minutes I added an onion sliced into 6 wedges, as onion is the secret ingredient for good and easy gravy.

The beef ended up very pink in the middle, with juices running clear. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, it should be more but everything else was ready and we were starving.

To make roast potatoes I followed this recipe. Parboiled parsnips for a few minutes (5-10 depending on size. I added them to the potatoes for the last 5 mins of parboiling). Roast them in olive oil (or duck or goose fat) for 30-40 minutes on 180C, with the red onion cut into 12 wedges, sprinkled with dried rosemary (fresh better if you have it). Carrots are quick and easy – cut into long chunks, season, put in a pyrex bowl, add a knob of butter, cover with cling film. Put in a microwave for 4-5 minutes, depending on how many there are. They should still be crunchy, with the butter and carrot juices at the bottom of the bowl.

Serve the juices from the meat, the onions are crunchy by now, in a separate bowl as gravy. I usually have hot creamed horseradish with the beef.

Braised topside with anchovy and onion

This is one of my favourite slow cooked dishes, another example of French regional cooking, adapted from Elizabeth David’s An Omelette and a Glass of Wine via Sunday Telegraph’s magazine.

Ingredients:

250g (9oz) unsalted butter (I NEVER use this much. OK, the dish does need a lot of butter so I use about half the amount as required by the recipe, then let the dish cool down, fridge it for a while and then scoop out the butter that becomes very visible. In my experience this hasn’t affected the flavour but considerably reduced the fat content)
6 onions, peeled and cut into thick half moons
1.5kg (3lb 5oz) beff topside cut into portion-sized steaks
2 bay leaves (I always add more)
2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed (again my hand slips and I add more :P)
1 tbs red-wine vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil (I include in this amount the oil from anchovies)
5 anchovy fillets chopped
2 dried red chillies ideally bird’s-eye
1 very large handful fresh flat leaf parsley

Take a heavy casserole with a lid, and rub the inside all over with three quarters of the butter. It isn’t just a greasing agent – it’s really a part of the dish. Scatter in some of the onion. Season the beef and layer some of it over the onions. Continue to layer the beef and the onion. Throw in the bay leaves. Smear a sheet of greaseproof paper with the remaining butter and place, butter-side down, on top of the meat and onion.

Preheat the oven to 140C/275F/gas mark 1. Place the lid on the pot and heat over a flame until it starts to sizzle. Transfer to the oven and leave for two hours or so, until the meat is very tender.
Place the other ingredients in a food processor and blitz to make a paste. As I don’t have one, I use mortar & pestle and get a very satisfying amount of gooey paste that smells absolutely delicious. Stir the paste into the meat and juices. Replace the lid and leave to infuse for 30 minutes off the heat. Gently reheat for about 25 minutes over a low flame and serve with mash potatoes and something green.