Winter is in its last week, it's lighter earlier and later, the birds are getting noisier and trees are blossoming everywhere.
My street is a riot of pink blossom on the prunus x blireana in the nature strips - one in front of every house. When the blossoms have gone, a beautiful deep red foliage will replace it, giving lovely shade as you walk down the street. These trees are not meant to fruit, but ours does. Not a lot, but enough to keep the birds interested.
But before winter disappears into the rearview mirror of 2006, let's brew up one of our all-time favourite winter stews.
This is a dish to enjoy at home for reasons of decorum. You have to get up close and personal with oxtail in order to get the meat out. I have seen people trying to eat it in restaurants, delicately trying to extract skeins of meat from the furrows in the bone using elegant knives and forks, but it just looks wrong. You have to pick those babies up and gnaw them. But just stay home and do it.
First I rolled the oxtail segments in some seasoned flour and then I browned them in some oil, which is difficult to do, because they are knobbly. But we got there after much poking and rolling.
Then I set them aside while I browned some onions in another pan. I diced a carrot and two sticks of celery, went outside and picked a bay leaf, came back in and put the browned oxtails into the pot with the onions and threw the celery and carrot over the top.
I turned the heat down and just let it sweat for a few minutes while I boiled the kettle, made some stock using a chicken stock cube because I was out of real stock, poured it into the pan in which I had browned the oxtail (to get all the 'bits') and then poured that into the cooking pot. Finally, a can of diced tomatoes and a very good amount of hot paprika, probably a tablespoonful.
You can cook this for as long as you want but a couple of hours should be enough.
To serve, make a mountain of olive-oil-and-garlic-mashed potato, place an oxtail segment or two on top and rain down some of the delicious gravy over it. Parsley on top. Some nice bread to accompany, maybe a slice of Flinders sourdough. And a glass of red or three.