Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Recipe corner: A thing of stew-ty

A fantastic recipe and an even better pun – what more could you ask for?

One of the very few plus points about growing older is the fact that I seem to be less hungry all the time. I was going to say that I seem to be losing my appetite, but that is probably stretching the point; I still require regular feeding or else I start to droop and sulk. But I don’t require the volume of food that once I did which means I can make my points work harder in terms of quality rather than quantity. This is good, because many of my very favourite things in the world are point heavy, as I suspect this is the situation whatever measure (points, calories, syns…) that you are using.

The recipe below is a case in point. 16 pro points per portion is pretty hefty. Factor in a couple of accompaniments (last Saturday we had this with mashed potato and broad beans tossed in butter, garlic and Iberico ham) and you’ve got nearly an entire day’s consumption in a single meal. It was worth the hit, believe me, but some austerity throughout the rest of the day was required – not to mention a trip to the gym.

Oxtail is not an easy cut to come by – we ordered ours from an online butcher, and I can’t think why it is not more popular because it produces the most fabulous stew. It breaks down into tender beefy shreds and gives the surrounding gravy an incredible unctuous quality. Of course, this is partly because it has an incredibly high fat content, but it does ease one’s conscience a little bit when the cooled fat is removed on the second day (this and the shredding of the meat are messy jobs – I would advocate getting a nearby husband to get his hands dirty while you direct operations from a safe distance).

The original recipe, by Sam and Sam Clarke of Moro, was to be found on the BBC website, although it now appears to have vanished. I have tweaked it very slightly by reducing the amount of oil required – I also used my slow cooker for the first stage although you could just as easily do it in the hob. Don’t be put off by the fact that this is prepared across two days – it is pretty straightforward to make and tastes just…fantastic.

 Oxtail with Rioja and Chorizo


1.5 kg Oxtail (weight including bone), in chunks
1 carrot, quartered
1 onion, quartered
1 celery stick, quartered
Tsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
Large sprig of fresh thyme
Tsp cloves
2 garlic cloves, peeled and slightly squished
1 bottle of Rioja
Large sprig of fresh parsley, leaves stripped
Salt and pepper

Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
120g chorizo, sliced into rounds
2 tbsp flour,
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
½ tsp fennel seeds
Tbsp tomato puree
Salt and pepper

Serves 4, 16 pro points a portion

The day before serving, season and then brown the oxtail in a large pan. I found that you did not need to add any oil at this stage – the oxtail’s own fat will be render out sufficiently. NB: depending upon the size of your pan, you may need to do this in batches. Remove from the pan (transfer to slow cooker if using).

Add the carrot, onion and celery to the pan and cook for about five minutes, tossing regularly to ensure that it browns on every side. Then add the peppercorns, bay, thyme, cloves and garlic and cook for a further couple of minutes. Again, transfer to the slow cooker if using, or return the oxtail to the pan.

Add the parsley and rioja, season well and top up with water if required to cover (in the slow cooker, no additional liquid will be necessary even if the meat is not fully submerged). Cook for around 5 hours on High (or simmer gently for around 2 hours) until the meat can be pulled from the bone easily. At this stage, transfer the oxtail to a large bowl and strain the juices over it. Allow to cool and then refrigerate over night.

On the day of eating, remove as much of the solid fat as possible from the cooled stew. At this point, you should also shred the meat from the bones. This is a fairly easy, albeit messy job.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sweat off the onion and carrot for about 10 minutes – add a good pinch of salt to allow them to soften without colouring. Add the chorizo and cook for a few more minutes. Then, stir in the flour and cook off for a couple of minutes before tipping in the paprika, fennel seeds and tomato puree. Ensure everything is fully coated in the beautiful orangey paste.

Now you can bring the shredded oxtail and stock to the pan. Season again to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15-20 mins, allowing the gravy to reduce slightly and thicken.

Serve with accompaniments of your choice (although I think it would be wrong not to have it with mashed potato…)


  1. I need this in my life.... I get so many points per day presently, I could have it and not have to scrimp and save during the day. Sounds like a winner to me!


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