Bovril Oxtail Red Wine Stew
Oxtail is a beautiful cut of meat from a steer’s tail, a well exercised muscle marbled with fat. Imagine the periodic pendulum-like swaying of the tail as a fly swat day in and out as the animal chews and grazes in an uttermost nonchalant manner and you’ll know what I mean. The segments are vertebrae so they have lots of iron-rich marrow as well. As with most tough cuts like shank and brisket, oxtail are best slow cooked for several hours. So here’s a really simple recipe that just takes a couple of minutes to prepare, a few hours ahead of meal time and dinner can be served almost effortlessly.
Red wine is great to be used as the base for stock in most beef stews, like in the classic Boeuf bourguignon. In fact the essence of the famous French dish perpetuates in almost all forms of beef stew recipes nowadays. So the technique I’d used for making this stew is very bourguignon-like. Use a young bottle of red, something full-bodied and preferrably with a fruity note. Chunks of oxtail are first browned in a casserole and removed, root vegetables and bulbs are then lightly sautéd in the same oil plus whatever fat rendered from the oxtail’s browning process. Red wine is then used to deglaze the casserole, after which everything goes back into the pot and all that’s left to do is to wait for a couple of hours for the chunks of oxtail to bubble and simmer until they properly soften. Super easy and fuss-free. This goes really well with a side of greens like an assortment of sautéd vegetables (I’d used courgettes, bell pepper, yes more carrots!) or even some mesclun greens, and a portion of carbs like a mash or saffron butter rice.
What is interesting about this dish is the use of Bovril in it. Many of us grew up eating Bovril with porridge and I fondly remembered it as being highly savory. So Borvil is added as partial, if not complete replacement for any salt required used in this dish, as well as all the flavours that the extract carries. That is already half the work done to getting the stew rich and robust. Thanks to my friend Lynette Chua for highlighting to me the use of Bovril in an oxtail stew.
Bovril Oxtail Red Wine Stew (serves 4-5)
2 kg of oxtail (choose meatier chunks)
2 large onions, skinned and sliced into broad strips
4 large carrots (for stewing), peeled and finely chopped
2 large carrots (to be added later), peeled and chunked
2-3 hard variety potatoes (not soft ones like Russet), peeled and chunked
1 large bulb of garlic, peeled
1 small can of tomato paste (170g) (Not tomato puree or ketchup)
1 bottle of red wine (I’d used Cabernet Sauvignon)
2 tbsp Bovril extract
Water as needed
3 bay leaves
salt and black pepper to taste
1 cube of beef bouillon, optional. cut back salt if using.
1-2 sprigs of French parsley, coarsely chopped
Rinse and pat dry oxtail chunks with kitchen towel
In a heated casserole or deep pot with some oil, brown oxtail chunks on all sides. Dish up and set aside
In the same casserole, saute onions. Add a small pinch of salt to prevent the onions from browning.
Add garlic cloves and saute as until fragrant.
Pour the bottle of red wine and using a wooden spatula, deglaze the pot by etching the brown caramelised bits from the bottom.
Add chopped carrots for stewing, can of tomato paste (rinse out the can with some water), bay leaves, Bovril extract. Stir to mix well.
Return browned oxtail to the casserole.
Fill the empty wine bottle partially with water and swirl around a bit before pouring the water into the casserole. Top up with more water if necessary, making sure that the beef chunks are just submerged in liquids.
Cover with lid and bring to a rapid boil. Skim any scum that has formed on the surface.
Lower flame to medium-low and let it simmer with lid on for 2 hours.
Adjust taste with pepper and salt/beef bouillon cube if using, though it may not be necessary.
Add chunks of potato and carrot.
Replenish liquids as required, either with stock or just hot water.
Simmer for another 30 min to 1 hour, until oxtail chunks are fork tender.
Serve with a sprinkling of chopped French parsley over a serving of greens and carbs.
Serve the casserole from the stove right onto the dining table for a hearty meal with friends or family.