This week, Brixton food blogger Miss South shares a recipe she discovered after exploring Brixton market’s butchers
When I first moved to Brixton, I was simultaneously fascinated and terrified by the market. Having come from an area of South London with only a branch of Iceland to buy food in, it was joyous to be able to have a huge choice of fruit and veg to buy for next to nothing. But the meat scared me. Partly because I never knew how much to ask for or in what measurements and partly because I was more used to seeing my meat portioned up and not looking like actual animals. Seeing bags of chicken feet, boiling fowl with the heads still on and those piles of cow foot with traces of farmyard still visible on them outside shops and stalls made me feel very sheltered and slightly silly.
Determined not to be that way, I started trying new things even it meant ordering too much and having to freeze some of it. I discovered I loved both curry mutton and goat and that meat on the bone means much more flavour.
But it was still a challenge when I went to get meat one day and was only offered oxtail. I’d only ever had it as tinned soup as a child and wasn’t keen on its thick slightly jellied texture. But the butcher promised me that very consistency improved a stew and so I tried it. And fell utterly in love with it.
Oxtail stew is a firm family favourite these days. Fairly inexpensive, very easy to cook and packed with flavour, here’s the recipe I use most often. If the fattiness of oxtail bothers you, it’s best to cook this the day before, allow it to cool and then skim the fat off. This also lets the flavours develop even more. Serve in deep bowls with lots of the gravy and your carb of choice.
Oxtail and Stout stew (serves 4 generously)
An oxtail (about two kilos on the bone)
A 500ml bottle of stout (but don’t use Export Guinness or the stew tastes bitter)
2 red onions
2 dried chillis soaked (or 1 chipotle chilli)
150g seasoned flour
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice (or 3-4 berries)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
3-4 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
a good shake of oyster sauce or Worcestershire sauce
250 ml tomato juice (or tomato puree mixed with water)
pinch of sugar.
Heat the oven to 160℃/320℉/Gas mark 3. Heat a pan or casserole on the hob and as it warms, dredge the oxtail pieces in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess. Brown the pieces in the pan in small batches until sealed on each side. Once all the pieces are sealed, de-glaze the pan with a small amount of the stout to loosen all the flavour from the pan and stop it burning.
Put the meat back in the pan along with the roughly chopped onion. Coat the meat and onions in the spices and some seasoning and make sure it is well mixed. Add in the chopped soaked chillis and the star anise. (All the spices are available in either the Nour Cash and Carry or the Wing Tai Supermarket in Brixton.) Cover the meat with the rest of the bottle of stout and top it up with the tomato juice and fish sauce. You want the meat well bathed so the liquid can reduce down without leaving the meat exposed. Add a pinch of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. Put the lid on and put in the oven for three and a half hours. You might want to check on it two hours in or you might prefer to go to the pub.
When the meat pulls away from the bone with just a fork, it’s ready to serve. It’s excellent with mashed potato or rice, but I served it with cornbread this time to soak up every scrap of the rich quivering meaty gravy. This is very easy to make and very impresssive to serve as people assume it’s much more complicated than it is!
225g yellow cornmeal or polenta
75g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons sugar
500g yoghurt (not Greek and not sweetened)
25g melted butter or oil (not olive)
2 eggs, beaten
pinch of salt
Brush a skillet or deep non stick baking tin with some oil or butter and heat in the oven at 200℃ while you make the mix. Measure the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Melt the butter if using and then pour into the dry ingredients followed by the yoghurt and the eggs and mix it well until you have a puffy yellow batter. Don’t overbeat.
Take the heated tin out of the oven and pour the batter into it. Pop back in the oven at the same temperature for about 25 minutes or until the top looks like it’s going golden and slightly crispy round the edges. It should come out of the tin easily. Serve chunks with the stew, but if you happen to have leftovers, it’ll keep well wrapped in a tea towel for a day or two. It’s also delicious on its own with parmesan and chilli folded into it.
So if you’ve ever wondered what to do to with those unusual cuts of meat or huge bags of cornmeal, try this oxtail stew with cornbread while spring makes up its mind if it’s here to stay or not! It also perks up St Patrick’s Day if you don’t care to drink stout…
Miss South blogs at North South Food with her brother, Mr North