I’ve never bought oxtail before. Not really sure why. But I saw the Hairy Bikers making oxtail soup on telly a few weeks ago so I added it to my meal plan. My butcher mentioned that he had a whole tray of oxtail that he could sell me for a tenner. The meat had gone a little dark. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it; still perfectly edible but it was due to be binned. What a waste! Beef darkens with age and it’s usually hung for a good while to mature anyway. Oxtail needs long, slow cooking so it really doesn’t matter if it’s getting a bit old. And I couldn’t let good meat be thrown away so I rescued it!
This is how much I used for the soup. I have another THREE bags like this in the freezer. What a bargain! If you’re on a tight budget and pretty confident in your cooking, it’s always worth asking the butcher what he’s got that’s nearing its shelf life. It might be pot luck but you can get some good deals.
I tweaked the Hairy Bikers’ recipe a bit to suit what I had in. I didn’t have any sherry (does anyone?!) and I’d run out of celery. Plus, quite frankly, I do not own a pot big enough to cope with the quantities of the original recipe so I left some bits out and used less stock. Anyway, here is how I did it…
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
300ml red wine
2 (ish) pints beef stock (made with 2 Oxo cubes)
2 tbs tomato purée
1 tbs Marmite
Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees.
Trim any excess fat off the meat Put the oxtail and flour in a big lidded Tupperware box and season well. Put the lid on and give it a good shake until it’s got a good coating. Then brown in a large frying pan.
When it has a good colour all over, set aside in a large, deep, ovenproof lidded casserole dish or pan (one that can go on the hob and in the oven).
In the same frying pan as before (less washing up!) gently soften the onion, garlic and carrots for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the thyme, bay leaves, tomato purée, red wine and stock to the dish containing the browned meat. When the vegetables are softened, add those too to the dish and give it all a stir.
Bring to the boil and then simmer for a few minutes. Put the lid on the dish and place in the middle of the oven for three hours. Check it halfway through and give it a stir. And more hot water from the kettle, if need be.
When the time is up, take the oxtail chunks out of the pan and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Return the pan to the hob on a low heat. Use a bit of kitchen paper to soak up any fat floating on top of the soup. Oxtail is naturally quite fatty but you don’t really want to eat it.
The meat should be very easy to flake away from the bones. Be careful to pick out any fatty or gristly bits.
Return the meat to the pan of soup, stir in the Marmite, and simmer for another 15 minutes or so. If you feel the soup is too thick, top up with hot water from the kettle.
And there you have it. Rich oxtail soup. Bears absolutely no resemblance to the tinned stuff.