Oxtail Stew is highly nutritious: meat, bones, and vegetables.
Once upon a time, an oxtail was bought whole - so that the purchased would get the large thick bones from the top of the tail and the fine, thinner ones from the bottom of the tail. Now this can still happen if you have the good fortune to use a good, old fashioned butcher. But if you are used to purchasing your meat at the supermarket all wrapped and stacked, then I need to explain this. Because what can happen with the pre-packaged oxtail is that you may not get the whole tail. This is what happened to Miss Eagle as she purchased her oxtail at Woolworths one weekend when the good old fashioned butcher was closed and the butcher in the shopping mall tried to sell her a pickled ox-tail - whatever that may be. Miss Eagle picked up a pack labelled "Tail" not "Oxtail" and thought it was awfully small. There should be more to it than this. And the bones were small. Miss Eagle looked again and there was another pack on the shelf with the large bones in it - so Miss Eagle had to purchase two packs to make one oxtail. The modern handling of beef!
The picture above shows the whole oxtail lying on a bed of vegetables. Mushrooms were added later. You can, if you wish, throw the oxtail and your choice of vegetables into a big pot and cover with water and salt and simmer away until ready. However, Miss Eagle prefers the following method.
Take a baking pan and layer your vegetables. The very first to go in is Cabbage, sliced and laid across the pan. Other vegetables are, Carrots, sliced into rings, Celery, chopped finely, a few Celery Tops, Onions, Potato, Mushrooms, and Garlic. On top of this place the Oxtail so that it looks like the photograph. Bake in a low oven (about 105 degrees Celsius) for about an hour. If the oxtail is very fatty, the fat will go to the bottom of the pan and can be drained off. Keep an eye on the baking, you don't want the vegetables to catch. Then, add your choice of herbs, don't forget the salt, and put in a large pot and bring to the simmer on the top of the stove. If you have a large cassoulet pot, this could be done in the oven. Now Miss Eagle needs to tell you that she considers Oxtail Stew a two-day event. This is to do the ever so slow cooking on Day 1. Then next day drain off any fat that has solidified on top of the stew before re-heating, thickening the stew with a paste of Plain Flour and water, and serving. With slow cooking food, it is - more often than not - better on Day 2 when you will find a greater enhancement of flavours. When your Oxtail comes to table the meat should be falling off the bone. Now this is beautiful served just with a sourdough bread and butter. However, there are two enhancements that can be made either alone or together. Give the Oxtail a hint of Central Europe by adding sour cream and stirring well in to blend about ten to fifteen minutes prior to serving. The other is to take your favourite scone recipe (see Miss Eagle's Scone Fest recipes) and do one of two things. If you are finishing the stew on your stovetop break off the dough and roll into balls (a bit of parsley is just the thing in these dumplings) place on top of stew and put a lid on top. These will cook in ten to fifteen minutes. Needless to say you do not have to serve bread with this. If you are finishing the stew in the oven, cut out the scones as usual and put on top of the stew. Do not put the lid on the pot. The scone topping will be moist underneath and brown on top and will cook in ten to fifteen minutes if you turn the oven up a little. Bon appetit! Scrumptious!