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Oxtail Stew – The Ultimate Finger Food

Late winter / early spring in Helsinki is not the greatest time of the year. After months of pristine winter weather, long brisk walks on the ice-covered sea become treacherous affairs. Snow turns into a dirty, shoe-ruining slush and everybody seems to come down with a cold.

Hearty stews are a great antidote and survival strategy. My favorite oxtail stew recipe is from Claudia Roden’s “The Good Food of Italy” (its Swedish translation, “Det Italienska K?ket från Piemonte till Sicilien”, has been a favorite since I found it on sale in a department store in Stockholm years ago). My nearly hundred cookbooks have been in storage in Finland for almost three years, so finally being able to unpack them feels very special.

Oxtail Stew

Even the bored-looking butcher at my local supermarket waxed poetic when I requested two kilos (4.5 lb) of oxtails – it seems that few of his customers bother to prepare meals that require four hours of slow stewing. Actually, I have been pretty busy working and socializing, so I did the initial stewing two days ago and finished up tonight. Two kilos of meat and bones sounds like a lot, but there are very few leftovers after Antti stopped for dinner ;)

Oxtail Stew

4-6 servings

2 kg oxtails cut at joints
1 carrot
1 leek
500 g sliced celery stalks
1 tbsp thyme
2 bay leaves
125 g bacon
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp marjoram
2-3 tbsp yellow raisins
2 tbsp pine nuts
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the oxtails, put them in a big kettle (a 5 litre kettle is ideal), cover with water, bring to boil and stew for 10 minutes. Rinse the oxtails, refill the kettle with fresh water, bring to boil again, add the carrot, leek, celery, thyme and bay leaves, and stew for 3 hours.

In a large saucepan, fry the bacon, onion and garlic; add marjoram and the stewed oxtails. Stew for another hour, until meat starts to fall away from the bones. Sprinkle with golden raisins, stew for another 10 minutes, and serve hot, topped with pine nuts.

Antti continues: While Anna’s stew was super delicious, I want to share my different approach with oxtails. I skip the veggies and bacon, but add heaps of onions. My broth is also always tomato-based, i.e. I add a can or two of crushed tomatoes, and then top it up with water until the tails are covered. A splash of wine, and the juices and the zest of a lemon to give zing. The acidity from the tomatoes help balance the otherwise heavy and meaty taste of the beef.

Either way, you won’t be disappointed =) If allowed by your company, add some decadence by grabbing the bones with your bare hands and suck the fall-of-the-bone tender meat straight off. Finger-licking-goodness guaranteed!

4 Responses to “Oxtail Stew – The Ultimate Finger Food”  

  1. fiordizucca

    i love stews! never tried with oxtail though, always beef
    this looks delicious, thanks for sharing!
    ciao :)

  2. Pille

    Anna – I totally understand you missing your cookbooks back home when living in the States!!! I often get “cravings” for a particular cookbook on my bookshelf in Tallinn. Rather frustrating when I’m in Edinburgh myself:)
    Have you got any other cookbooks by Claudia Roden? I love both her Book of Jewish Food (a good cookbook plus a brillian history of the culture), and her new book Arabesque is full of really tantalising recipes!
    I haven’t had oxtail stew before. Sounds like something that would be worth a night in Helsinki as opposed to just a quick stopover:)

  3. Antti

    fiordizucca: you can prepare oxtails pretty much the same way you would cook osso bucco – which btw is one of my all-time favorites. Perhaps that’s what I’ll cook for you, Pille, with bone marrow-enriched risotto milanese.

  4. Anna

    Hi Fiordizucca, I gave your cherry tomato and sweet potato focaccia a try last week, substituting rosemary for oregano. It was gorgeous, even though I had to turn off the oven a bit early to run to a meeting, so the bread remained a bit moist inside.

    Pille, I’ve checked out Claudia Roden’s books from the library (public libraries are THE source for cookbooks in Helsinki) and am seriously considering buying her Middle Eastern book. My kitchen bookshelf can allocate only perhaps ten or twenty new tomes, so I’ll have to be superselective about what I buy. Anyway, let us know when you are in Helsinki… We’ll try to make sure that your trip is worthwhile ;)

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