Oxtail and red wine stew on a base of polenta

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Regula slow cooks oxtail over 4 hours, resulting in wonderfully rich, tender meat that easily falls off the bone. To boost the flavour even more Regula adds red wine, bay leaf and sweet baby onions to her stew and serves it on a bed of creamy polenta.

First published in 2016

If you buy oxtail you are truly eating from nose to tail, literally!

So many people are put off by oxtail because they think it is tricky to prepare or because it looks a bit odd. It looks like a shin, but with lots of little bones, instead of one large oozing bone marrow that can be spread on a slice of toast.

Think again if you are worried it will take a lot of cleaning and processing, oxtail is one of the easiest cuts of beef to prepare. Because oxtail needs low and slow cooking, you are guaranteed lots of flavour, even if you have done little to prepare it.

If this is your first time cooking oxtail a traditional recipe is a good place to start. The Italians call this dish 'pepposa' as the beef is simply cooked in red wine and pepper. I just call it oxtail in red wine and also add onions, a bay leaf, garlic and pepper for extra flavour. After four hours of stewing, the meat falls off the bone without being dry.

I hope you find this oxtail stew as satisfying to prepare as I do. The pleasure starts with picking the meat off the bone – it is no work as it falls off the bone so easily you will wish you had 5kg of tails to pick. And then there is the enjoyment of being able to eat this bowlful of stew with a spoon and nothing else.

As this dish is beautiful in its simplicity, no vegetables are served with it. If you would like some vegetables perhaps try sautéed kale, roasted pumpkin or a side salad. Alternatively, you could serve a vegetable-based starter.




Oxtail stew


Preheat the oven to 140°C/gas mark 1
To begin, dust the oxtail in flour, then melt a generous amount of butter in a cast iron casserole dish, large enough to snugly fit all of the oxtail
Fry the oxtail in batches, being careful to not let them colour too much. Add 3 of the onions when you come to the last batch of oxtails
Place all of the browned oxtail and onion in the casserole dish and pour over the wine, covering the meat completely
Add the onions, garlic, pepper, salt and bay leaf and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat, simmer for 5 minutes then cover and place in the oven. Cook for 2 hours, then check on it and stir
After 3.5 hours, it should be nearly done (but it could need 4 hours depending on the age and breed of the animal)
Once cooked, let it cool slightly, then take out the oxtail and pick the meat from the bones. Place the picked meat in a separate container and set aside
Bring the gravy to the boil once more, it should be quite soupy. Mix a teaspoon of butter with a teaspoon of flour and add to the gravy to thicken it
Stir in a teaspoon redcurrant jelly or apple syrup – this will give your sauce a nice glaze and soften the strong wine flavour. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper if needed. Place the meat back in the sauce and keep warm
Prepare the polenta as per packet instructions. You could substitute part of the water needed to cook it for stock for an even richer flavour. Make sure you season generously with salt as polenta is bland without it
When ready to serve, scoop the polenta onto a large serving platter and place the juicy meat on top. You could also create a base of polenta on each plate using a food ring and place some of the meat on one side
First published in 2016

Food photographer, graphic designer and author of Pride and Pudding (Murdoch 2016).

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