As the dark evenings draw in and the temperature starts to drop off rich stews and casseroles come into their own. The recipe below is a fine example of cooking ‘low and slow’ which results in the meat becoming mouth-wateringly tender and falls off the bone.
Whilst I was in France a couple of weeks ago with some of my school friends, a debate started over what is the difference between a stew and a casserole. After a lengthy discussion and a bit of googling we learnt that stewing is done on the top of a cooker with heat being applied directly to the underneath of the pot; while casseroling takes place inside the oven with heat circulating all around the pot. In both cases the meat is cut up fairly small and cooked in a liquid (stock, wine, water, cider, etc). So it transpires that I have been using the terminology wrongly for many years – whoops.
The recipe below is for oxtail casserole which uses Guinness as a substitute for tomatoes and stock on the basis that it has a lovely earthy and almost bitter flavour which combined with the red currant jelly becomes beautifully mellow. Whilst I cooked this in a cast iron casserole dish this recipe would work really well in a slow cooker, however make sure that you cook it on a low setting for around 6-7 hours.
For presentation purposes I took the oxtail off the bone and served in a roasted squash, which looked lovely. However I have a confession to make, after decanting the casserole into the squash is dawned on me that whilst pretty it was highly impractical, so I ended up tipping it back into the pot before serving and it saved me from one heck of a mess. In hindsight I should have served the oxtail on the bone (2 per person is about right) with wedges of roasted squash and green vegetables on the side. As they say “you live and learn”… Enjoy!
Preparation time: 3.5hrs
- 1kg oxtail (*substitute option 800g stewing beef or beef brisket)
- 12 baby onions or shallots (peeled and left whole)
- 3 carrots (cut into chunks)
- 2 celery stalks (cut into chunks)
- 2 tbsp red currant jelly
- 1 tbsp black treacle
- 500ml Guinness (*substitute option – 500ml tomato passata and a beef stock cube)
- 2tbsp flour
- 1tsp herbes de Provence
- Place the baby onions whole into a heavy bottomed pan with some oil and cook on a low heat for around 15 minutes until they start to caramelise.
- Whilst the onions are cooking prepare the oxtail – on plate mix together the flour, herbs and some seasoning. Coat the oxtail in the flour mixture.
- Heat a little oil in a frying pan on a high heat and brown the oxtail.
- Once browned remove the oxtail from the frying pan. If you have any of the flour mixture left and it to the frying pan and mix together with the juices, slowly add the Guinness to the pan stirring continuously to ensure that you get a smooth sauce.
- When your onions have started to caramelise add the carrots and celery to the pan, cover with a lid and leave to sweat for 5 mins.
- Then add the oxtail, sauce, red currant jelly and black treacle. Stir well, cover and the place in the oven at 120C for 2.5/3 hours, stirring half way through.
Tip: Always taste the casserole before serving and add more seasoning and red currant jelly as necessary.
- This casserole goes very nicely with roasted pumpkin or squash as it adds additional sweetness to this dish.
- Alternatively serve with a jacket potato or mash which will help soak up the juices from the plate.