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!