Oxtail and the Role of the Butcher


I grew up eating food produced simply produced using things that I’d seen wandering around or growing in my parents smallholding.  I’ve always felt slightly abstracted from the supermarket food buying process and since moving to York Pip and I have tried to use the plethora of independent food shops over supermarkets.  After 5 years of being occasionally mugged in Godfreys and having struggled to come to terms with Highbury Butcher’s idiosyncratic opening times to find a place like M&K Butchers round the corner has been a treat.  Like a lot of the small shops in York it fulfils an obvious social function and crossing the threshold feels like you’re being drawn into a community.

Everything I’ve brought from M&K; from rabbit to pigeon, liver to rib of beef, has been both of the highest quality and noticably cheaper than London (up to 30% cheaper than Godfreys).  You can see the carcasses being butchered behind the counter and the owners parents own a farm just outside York which provides some of the lamb.  One of the functions of a good butcher is that you’ll see cuts you haven’t cooked with before and give them a go which brings me to the recipe below.  I also left with a wild rabbit which was shot near Easingwold.

This recipe is an amalgam of two, courtesy of Jamie Oliver and Nigel Slater.  Both consistently produce easy to follow, functional recipes that generally teach me something that can be applied elsewhere.  I struggle with the copy on Jamie’s site, lots of exclamation marks and misplaced hyperbole but I guess that’s his schtick…  “An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald

Corsican Oxtail.  Serves 4.

  • Oxtail.  Just over a kilo
  • A Leek
  • Five Carrots
  • Two Onions
  • Four Cloves of Garlic
  • A bottle of Guinness
  • Half a litre of Stock
  • Parsley Stalks
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Zest of half an Orange
  • Olive Oil
  • Half a Teaspoon of Ground Cloves
  • A touch of Cayenne
  • Salt and Pepper

Heat the oven and a generously sized baking tray to 220C.  Season the oxtail and toss in olive oil and a bit of mustard powder.  Once the oven’s up to heat then pop the oxtail in the tray and give it twenty minutes or so to brown.

Whilst the oxtail’s browning chop the onion and leak and gently fry in a large casserole pan in a bit of olive oil until  translucent.  Turn the heat up a bit and add the crushed and chopped garlic. (This time of year a lot of the garlic cloves I’m coming across have started to sprout, cut them in half and remove the green section if you can be arsed.  It’ll it make it less bitter)  Add the carrots too.

Remove the oxtail pan from the oven and place the meat on a plate to rest for a short while.  Pour the Guinness into the pan and pop it back into the oven which you should turn down to 140C.  After five minutes or so put the oxtail in the casserole pan and add the stock, bring to a rolling boil and skin any scum off the top which should help the final dish’s colour, skipping this step might leave you with a rather cinereal concoction at the end of it all.  Take the warm Guinness pan out of the oven and scrape off any tasty burnt bits before adding the contents to the casserole .  Put a lid on that and place it in the oven for 4-6 hours checking progress every ninety minutes or so.

The dish is ready when the meat’s falling from the bone.  At this point take the casserole pan out of the oven and separate the meat from the bones.  If the dish is looking a bit watery then pop it on a hob and reduce the mixture  (If you can be arsed then remove the vegetables too so they don’t disintegrate during this process)  Once the liquor is the required consistency then construct the final dish but combining the meat, vegetables, orange zest and parsley.  Check the seasoning and serve with pappardelle and a bit of parmesan on the top.  Dig in…