Not so long ago a good friend returned from Dubai for a week and some equally great friends, two sisters, held a dinner to celebrate. A dinner party with these two is never a quiet affair; the frivolities and company only being rivalled by the amazing, often Italian, food that they serve up. But on this occasion, I was bowled over.
From the moment I walked into the flat to the moment I stumbled home, the only thing I could smell and think about was the oxtail ragu that was served up for the main. I think everyone in attendance, including the chef from a prominent Primrose Hill eatery would agree that it was wonderful. The following morning on my standard misery inducing cycle to work all I could think about was the ragu and how I should definitely feature it.
It was, in a word, brilliant. The meat was cooked to perfection and melted the moment it hit your mouth. The sauce, the perfect consistency, only helped enhance the dish and provided a perfect fitting bovine flavoured coat for the pasta and meat. If I hadn’t filled up on the starter I would have definitely had thirds. Despite this, I mopped up every last vestige of the sauce and basked in its meaty goodness.
So after the inappropriate amount of bribing, chasing, cajoling and nagging I have got hold of the recipe. It is extremely straightforward but will need your full attention and patience: which is also a testament to the effort put in by my esteemed hosts. The recipe below is for 12 but clearly you only have to half or quarter it to make a lesser portion.
Serves 10- 12
You will need:
3 kg of Oxtail (chopped into large but even and manageable pieces)
250g flour (seasoned with salt and pepper)
Plenty of olive oil
Knob of butter
2.1 litres of red wine
1 litre beef stock
4 carrots (very finely chopped) (in this case a blender was used)
2 red onions (finely chopped)
4 sticks of celery (finely chopped)
5 bay leaves
4 cloves of garlic (crushed)
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
Juice of half a lemon
1 tin of tomatoes or pasatta (roughly 400g)
1 tbsp tomato puree
Salt and pepper
Pappadrelle (approx. 100g per person)
Parsley and shaved parmesan for serving
- On a low heat in a saucepan heat a healthy glug of olive oil and the butter. Once melted, fry the celery, carrots, onions (known as the Soffritto) and garlic for about 15 mins till softened. Towards the end add in the chilli flakes, tomato puree and tinned tomatoes/pasatta. Simmer
- Whilst this is going on, coat the oxtail pieces in the seasoned flour. Shake of any excess and brown them off in a large heavy bottomed pan
- Once browned, add the mix from the previous pan and bay leaves
- Turn the heat up high and enough wine and stock to make sure the meat is covered (2 parts wine to 1 part stock)
- Bubble till the alcohol has evaporated, lower the heat and simmer for at least three hours. Make sure to stir every now and again, the aim is for the meat to be all “melty and delicious”
- When the end goal has been met, remove to one side, cool and remove all the meat and fat
- Sieve the sauce into a separate pan, remove any excess liquid and transfer all the “tomatoey mush” back into the pan, add the meat and use a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Return to a low heat
- Pour back in enough stock to give a thick consistency (whatever suits you best). Bring to a bubble and simmer for an hour, adding more stock if needed
- Season with salt, pepper and the lemon juice. Stir
- Serve with a thick flat pappadrelle and a equally thick piece of warm crusty bread. Garnish with lashings of parsley and parmesan.