Oxtail stew polarises. People either love it or hate it. The idea, that is: why would you eat the tail of a poor beast?
It's a good question, but if you're squeamish and were given a choice between that and the sheep's head soup my mother made once when I was small, I'm sure you'd opt for the tail.
Here's one I made the other morning, to simmer all day. Herbs, white wine and butter combine to create a rich, aromatic and creamy sauce that really stands up to the richness of the oxtail meat. Served on creamy mashed potato it was a sublime choice for a cold Melbourne night in the dead of winter with spring still far away.
Oxtail stew with herbs and white wine.
Brown eight joints of oxtail in a heavy pan. Remove and set into a heavy pot. Lightly brown 100g of rindless bacon in same pan. Add to oxtail in pot.
Slice two medium onions and two carrots and place into pot along with a bay leaf, a sprig each of thyme and parsley, 12 black peppercorns and a whole clove.
Now add 1250ml beef stock. That's the first part done. Simmer three hours. Go out for lunch. (I had to go over to Toorak Road so I had the spinach lasagne at Romeo's. It was the same as it was in 1988, which everything is at Romeo's, especially the rich widow clientele.)
Now we're back home again and the aroma of rich beef, herbs and white wine has filled the house.
Remove joints to a platter and strain stock. Melt 50g butter in a saucepan, add 125ml white wine, simmer gently and reduce to about half. Mix 40g plain flour to a cream with a little of the strained stock, stir into wine mixture and continue cooking. When frothy, stir in remainder of stock. Stir until boiling, season, add joints and simmer for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve, as mentioned earlier, with garlic mashed potatoes. And buttered peas. Drink: a 2003 Harcourt Valley Barb's shiraz. (Notes of dried apple? The winery was planted in 1975 on the site of a 100-year-old apple orchard.)