Oxtail – it positively, definitely, decidedly has to be one of my ultimate cuts for a warming stew. My love of it goes way back, to my childhood spent in part on a dairy farm. A whole oxtail is a substantial thing – you get a lot from one bovine. But even back then I remember wishing cows came with eight tails.
These days I unfortunately have to make like most other folks and buy it in a shop. It’s more expensive than fillet I think, and that’s a problem because with all that bone oxtail does not go far. The solution? Stretching your oxtail by turning it into a soul-warming, belly-pleasing ragu for pasta. Because I think oxtail really is special occasion food, I make the pasta from scratch and up the ante by adding a generous pinch of saffron, and I serve it with a mighty fine Shiraz in my best crystal.
All you need is…
1 kg oxtail
3 tbs flour mixed with a generous pinch of salt and pinch of black pepper
1 extra large onion, finely sliced
1 stick celery, sliced
1 cup grated carrot
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs tomato paste
½ cup Shiraz
1 large tomato, peeled and diced
2 cups water
1 beef stock cube
½ tsp black pepper
1 sprig rosemary
2 fresh bay leaves
olive oil, for frying
pasta of your choice
Dust the oxtail with the flour and gently shake off the excess. Heat a large thick-based saucepan and then add a generous glug of olive oil. Add the oxtail and brown on all sides, then remove the meat and set aside. Add the onion, celery and carrot and fry over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring to lift all those lovely caramelised brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and tomato paste and fry for a minute or two. Add the red wine and cook for a minute or two. Then add the tomato, water, stock cube, rosemary and bay leaves. Put the lid on, turn the heat right down and cook for a good 3-4 hours until the meat falls off the bone. (Check from time to time and see if it needs more water, but add only a little at a time.)
Use two forks to flake the meat. Return to the pot and cook with the lid off until the sauce is thick and glistening. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary. NB: YOU CAN MAKE THIS RECIPE MUCH QUICKER BY USING A PRESSURE COOKER. SEE TIPS, TRICKS AND TRIVIA BELOW FOR HOW.
To make the saffron pasta, simply add a generous pinch of saffron to your salted pasta cooking water and cook the dried pasta as per normal. (If you are making fresh pasta, steep the saffron in 2tbs boiling water for 30 mins to extract maximum colour, then add the lot to your pasta dough. As you are adding additional liquid, you may need to compensate for this by adding just a touch more flour than you would normally do.)