Before I started on my offal adventures, the only oxtail I’d tried was soup out of a can, it was ok, but I preferred the tomato variety. So, when I cooked up some real oxtail in my beloved pressure cooker, an instant love affair blossomed.
Now one of, if not my number one favourite cut, the mixture of meat, fat, connective tissue and bone is the perfect combination for a decadent culinary delight.
At the slightest mention of oxtail to my fellow Instagram #offal followers, the responses are unanimous… “oxtail is the best!”
When I’m devouring my oxtail, I go into a kind of blissful trance as the taste and texture sensations consume me like the first time I’m eating food after a 3 day fast. Or like a toddler eating candy for the first time, like a drug, at that moment nothing else matters.
I feel simultaneously blessed that I’m experiencing this taste sensation while also feeling regret that it’s taken me 39 years of roaming this planet before I discovered this wonder… What other sensual delights am I missing out on?
You gotta try this
In other words, oxtail is super tasty, and – if you haven’t tried it already – I highly recommend you march on down to your butcher and demand (politely)… “some of your finest tail from an ox, please”.
When you return home, waste no time, fire up your pressure cooker, slow cooker, oven or hob – there are many recipes and cooking methods to be found – cook and wait a while. Your patience will be rewarded with a flavoursome flamenco on your tongue, smooth but punchy.
Forgive yourself as you slurp and groan, just give in to it, all will become a dreamy blur. After, rest easy with a full fuzzy feeling, a warm afterglow of content and notice your involuntary smile… You have just experienced one of Mother Nature’s comforting hugs.
Is it magic?
What’s actually going here with all of these orgasmic sensations?
The book explains…
“Cooking meat slowly is the best way to turn an ordinary meal into something extraordinary – in terms of taste and nutrition. The potential flavour of meat, or any food, derives from its complexity. Depending on the cut, “meat” may include muscle, tendon, bone, fat, skin, blood and glands – each a world of chemical diversity. When that diversity is released onto the tongue you can taste it, and the rich, savoury flavour means a world of nutrients are on their way.”
So, not only does it taste amazing, but we’re also getting a powerful hit of nutrients and collagen. They go on to explain the process…
“All you need is moisture, time and parts (as many different tissue types as possible: ligament, bone, fat, skin etc.). Making soup, stewing, keeping a top on to trap the steam, basting often when cooking in the oven – all these techniques keep moisture inside the meat, enabling water molecules to make magic happen.”
Oh yeah, and magic does happen with oxtail, which makes sense… This one cut has numerous tissue types including ligament, bone, fat and muscle meat. The book further explains…
“[It] begins when heated moisture trapped in the meat creates the perfect conditions for hydrolytic cleavage… How does hydrolytic cleavage translate in to taste? It’s simple. Taste buds are small. The receptor site where the chemicals bind to them is tiny. So things that impart taste (called flavour ligands) must be tiny too…
Cooking releases trapped flavour because, during the process of hydrolytic cleavage, some proteins are chopped into very small segments, creating short strings of amino acids called peptides. Peptides are tiny enough to fit into receptors in our taste buds. When they do, we get the sensation of savouriness food manufacturers call the “fifth flavour”, or umami.”
It’s just a feeling
This rich, decadent, succulent joy called oxtail can be summed up in one word… Umami.
Umami is well known in the world of food. It’s considered to be a taste along with sweetness, sourness, saltness and bitterness. We have taste receptors that respond to glutamates which are found in various foods, although mainly slow-cooked animal foods that have a mixture of different parts such as muscle meat, bones, connective tissue and skin.
It’s these glutamates that when they hit your tongue, sensations of euphoria ensue. Food manufacturers know about this and use this to their advantage. A man-made version called monosodium glutamate (MSG) is used in many fast foods to cheat your taste buds and make you want more of their food.
Umami is more than a taste through… It’s a sensation, a feeling, almost an emotion. Another one of Mother Nature’s wonders.
There are no rules here
You’ll find a wealth of recipes to try out with a quick DuckDuckGo search, but it’s pretty easy to wing it. Here’s what I did…
- 1.5kg oxtail
- 500ml of beef bone broth (or beef stock)
- 3 carrots cut into bite-size pieces
- 3 celery sticks cut into bite-size pieces
- 3 small onions cut into bite-size pieces
- A few cloves of garlic roughly chopped
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup of red wine
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp of salt
- Filtered or bottled mineral water
Nice and simple… using a pressure cooker, throw everything in. Give it a mix around, then top it up with water until it’s just covering everything. Cook for an hour and a half.
If you haven’t got a pressure cooker, you can use a slow cooker which will take around 8 hours. Or you can simmer or bake in a casserole in the oven on 170C/325F/gas mark 3 for 4 to 5 hours.
When it’s done the meat should fall off the bone and any connective tissue should be soft and gooey.
If the sauce is not thick enough for you, mix up 2 tbsp of flour with a splash of water in a cup until there are no lumps. Then add this and stir in. The sauce should thicken. Repeat if needed.
I enjoy it on its own but you can have it with some mash, or some buttered French stick perhaps. There are no rules here.
Devour and enjoy!
Have a nutritious day!
There you have it! Just a reminder that I’m no doctor, dietitian or any other profession for that matter. I’m simply a bearer of information for you to do what you want with; question it, research it, erase it from your mind, you are in charge of you.