Since I started living on my own again I have had to learn to budget, and I mean seriously budget. Gone are the days when I would just go out and buy whatever I liked when I liked, living the foodie dream and being able to spend obscene amounts of money on ingredients. I ate well, but in many respects I eat even better now because I have to use my knowledge even more to get the best out of my shopping trips. I shop mainly on impulse, I rarely have a list unless I plan to make a certain dish for the blog, so going out and finding some ox tail in the market was a delight, and it’s so cheap. I paid just under £6 for 6 pieces which is enough for 3-4 people if serving with other accompaniments.
Like most cheap cuts ox tail needs long slow cooking, and although this is a fairly simple recipe you need to follow certain steps to get the most from it. Ox tail has lots of collagen and fat which lubricates the meat while it slowly braises, the collagen breaks down and yields soft, silky and super tender meat. Served with the baked potato mash and you have yourself a rather handsome meal. Apologies for the poor picture, it was dark when I took the photo, a technique I have yet to master.
Serves 2-4 people depending on how greedy you are
- About 1kg f ox tail (try to get the thick pieces)
- 500ml Kentish ale
- 2 carrots
- 2 sticks of celery
- 2 medium onions
- 3 garlic cloves
- 500ml good beef stock (knorr jelly pots are good)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- Salt and black pepper
- 2 tbsp plain flour
For the mash:
- 4 large baking potatoes (I used osprey variety)
- 150g butter
- White pepper
1. Take your ox tail pieces and trim off most of the outer layer of fat with a knife, chop the fat into pieces and put into a cold frying pan, then heat the pan gently to a medium heat so the fat pieces start to melt slightly and renders down. In a large bowl mix the plain flour with plenty of black pepper and a pinch of salt, dredge the ox tail pieces in the flour and pat off any excess. Turn your pan up to a high heat and remove the fat pieces, there should be enough liquid fat rendered in the pan, if not add an extra touch of oil. Fry the ox tail pieces all over for a few minutes until you get a nice dark crust all over each piece then place into a lidded casserole dish.
2. Chop the carrots, onions and celery into thumbnail sized pieces and add to the same pan you fried the ox tail in on a medium heat with a little more oil if needed until they start to soften and take on a bit of colour, then add the whole garlic cloves and fry for another few minutes. Add all the veg to the ox tail along with the thyme and bay leaves. Use a little of the ale to pour into the frying pan on a high heat to de glaze and pick up all the bits, then add to the casserole dish. Pour over the remaining ale then add enough beef stock until the ox tail is submerged. (you might not need all the stock, but it will keep in the fridge to use for something else like soup or a risotto). Now take a sheet of greaseproof paper and make a cartouche, which is basically a circle cut to the same diameter as the casserole dish. Season the ox tail mixture with salt and pepper and place the cartouche on top of the liquid. Place the lid on the dish and cook for 3-4 hours on gas mark 4 (180°C350°F).
3. For the last hour of cooking wrap the baking potatoes in foil and place on a baking tray in the oven, cook until the potatoes are done. Once the potatoes are done take them out and leave in the foil until ready to use.
4. Take off and discard the cartouche then remove the ox tail from the pot and leave on a warm plate and cover with foil. Take the braising liquid and strain through a sieve into a saucepan, then using the back of a ladle or spoon squash down all those vegetables to extract their flavour, discard the pulp. Then on a medium heat reduce by about a 1/4 to intensify the sauce. Now remove the potatoes from the foil and skins and place into a mixing bowl, mash together with the butter, a little salt and season with as much or little as you like of white pepper, taste as you go because you can always add more but can’t take out. place 2 or 3 ox tail pieces in a deep bowl with some mash, trickle over some of that intense sauce. Eat!