This is a serious one. This is ideal if you are unemployed, underemployed, self-employed, or if you spend a lot of time at home for some other reason. It is also good if you are low on cash and have a desire to eat delicious that falls off the bone. This is a good one for getting in touch with the animal spirits. The ingredients are quite flexible, but the proportions and fundamentals are important.
Cooking Time: 2 Days, ideally.
Portions: a small hungry army
- You can buy this from an "ethnic" butcher of some sort, search it out, not always in stock. Make this stew when you find it being sold somehwere. You can freeze it and thaw it for later use. Seize the day. It is usually relatively inexpensive, as far a meat goes.
- It is also possible to substitute the meat with another kind, and keep the same idea, but . . . . alas you can not tell people you are making "ox-tail." A good substitution would be stew beef with the bone in or lamb shoulder cut up into chunks. If you are using beef or lamb of a stewing nature, reduce the simmering time to something more like 1.5 or 2 hours. You want the meat to fall off the bone, but you do not want to destroy the meat itself. There is such thing as too much of a good thing, even when that thing is slow cooking.
- You'll find ox-tail either whole (about 1.5 feet long) or cut in half. Ask the butcher to cut your ox-tail up into chunks of a biggish size. If you want to feed more people, buy a big one or two small ones, if you want to feed less buy a small one.
onions - a bunch
fresh thyme - a lot
garlic - a bunch of cloves
tomatoes - a bunch of fresh ones or a big can or two of whole ones)
red lentils - a cup
butter or oil - just a little
light green long peppers (or something similar very mild spice) - three or so
jalapano - one or two, depending on your preference
potatoes - totally optional (I don't really like then myself, but to each their own)
habanero pepper or some kind of intense hot sauce - if it suits you and you want to feel the burn
salt, pepper - not too much salt, be careful, you can't put it back in the jar!
water - various quantities
spices - ideally Jamaican curry powder sold in large quantities (such as Cool Runnings brand)
- You can also make your own if you know what you are doing: tumeric, cumin, allspice, etc, but I'd trust the Jamaicans to work their magic.
Heat up a BIG HEAVY BOTTOM pot to medium. Cut up a whole bunch of onions, very coarsely. Fry them in some heated but not burning olive oil or butter (not too much). Fry on medium for a bit. While the pot is hot add the ox to the onions. Cook the outside of the meat, stirring on occasion. Add carrots and potatoes (in largeish chunks). Make sure not to burn anything, but you want to be getting the heat up and into the ingredients. This whole thing should take a little while (10-15 min.) You can cover it, and it may start to get liquid in the bottom, depending on how it works out. If that happens, cool, great, reduce heat for a while and let simmer. Add peppers. If it is looking dry on the bottom of the pan, avoid burning by adding water, red wine and/or canned tomatoes slowly. Slowly add liquid until you have a saucy thing going on. Take about 20 little sprigs of thyme and strip the leaves off into the pot one at a time, toss the twig bits. Add garlic, crushed or cut up reasonably small. Add A couple of table spoons of spices as we discussed, depending on your preferences. Salt, pepper. Wash your red lentils in cold water, drain, and add. Add more water as needed (the lentils will take water).
The order of the actions is not highly important. Onions and meat first for sure. Don't let anything burn. Get the heat up, but do not settle into a rolling boil. Bring down heat once you have everything in the pot. Stir it up. Enjoy the process.
Now, clean up your cooking station, and let the puppy cook for a LONG TIME on VERY LOW. We are talking like 4 hours or more if you like. Add water as needed. Do not burn anything on the bottom. Usually 4 hours will do it good. You can also mess around with getting it up to a boil, and leaving it to cool on the stove for a hour or three while you go out and do something else, and then re-heating it and simmer it again. If you are using lamb on the bone instead, cook for much less time, like one hour of simmering or until the meat falls of the bone. Stew beef with the bone in - maybe 1.5 or two hours of simmering, it depends.
At this point the meat, of whatever sort, should fall of the bone more or less with the use of a fork. You may have somewhat over shot if you can no longer distinguish the meat chunks, but that is not the end of the world. When you are satisfied, stop cooking and let it cool completely. Leave it out on the stove for a while to cool off, then store in the pot, in the fridge, while time passes. When it has cooled completely, skim as much of the of fat off the surface as you can with a spoon or a ladle.
Reheat thoroughly (probably the next day) and enjoy this carnivorous feast. You can serve it with hot sauce and sour cream or yogurt, and definitely something bread-ish like pita or white bread or ROTI in large quantities.
The long slow cooking brings out the flavour and turns a very tough hard-assed cut of meat into a soft and tender delicacy. It also semi-liquefies the nutrient-rich bone marrow and some of the cartilage-type stuff (good for those of you with joint problems!) The key here is to cook it on low, essentially for ever. This is an all-day thing, or a least an afternoon thing. It is also good to eat a sandwich while or before cooking, so you don't get hungry and try to eat the ingredients.
Proportionally, you will want it to be heavy on the meat and onions, with lots of taste and sauce. Most of the other vegetable ingredients will become broken down by all the cooking. It can be thick or thin, re water and lentil quantity, as desired. It works well as a thick sludge or as a brothy kind of soup. It works very well to be cooked in large quantity and reheated as needed over the week. Because of the large quantity and all the cooking, this stew will take quite a lot of spicing and not become deadly hot, so . . . hold the course. You can always cool it down with yogurt or sour cream.
Invite a large group of people over. Eat as a soup with a spoon. Encourage the use use of fingers to eat the meat and get at the good stuff. Add hot sauce as needed. Bring your appetite and leave your meat-on-the-bone prejudices at the door.