Thursday, November 15, 2007

Oxtail Lasagne

Oxtail as a part of supper is a sure sign that the mercury is falling. It is not (necessarily) the meat from ox - it can be from any beef cattle but it is definitely the tail. I ordered two from Wild Beef a couple of weeks ago. Each animal only has one tail (!) so as oxtail has enjoyed a renaissance over the last few years it is sensible to ask in advance to be sure they will be there. I picked them up, ready jointed, quite interesting things like a jigsaw tail that you could remake should you be so minded.

Largely bone - and luscious marrow - surrounded with coarse but sweetish flesh the only way to prepare oxtail is slowly. The time spent is richly rewarded though - starting with the lovely smell of slow cooking that fills your home through to the extraordinarily richly flavoured meal that you eventually enjoy. Most of the preparation is very quick - the time involved is largely marination and casseroling rather than anything complicated. The meat soaks in a rich juice for a day and then slow cooks in the oven for many hours and then cools to a point where the fat can be skimmed and the meat taken from the bones. After that it's just like making lasagne!

Oxtail Lasagne

For the oxtail

About 2 kgs oxtail jointed
500 ml red wine
Bouquet garni of bay, thyme and rosemary
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
l litre brown chicken stock
salt and pepper

For the tomato sauce

1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tins plum tomatoes
Sprig of rosemary
Salt and pepper

For the cheese sauce

25g butter
1 tbspn plain flour
1 litre whole milk
1/2 tspn fresh grated nutmeg
150g sheeps cheese, grated
Salt and pepper
Dried lasagne sheets


For the ox tail

Put the oxtail pieces in a bowl with the wine, thyme, rosemary and bayleaf and leave to marinate overnight.. When ready to use preheat the oven to gas 1. Remove the oxtail from the bowl and pat dry, reserving the marinade. Heat about 3 tbspns of olive oil in a pan till smoking hot and carefully brown the meat all over until almost black. Remove from the pan and put them in an oven proof dish.

Wipe the pan clean. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the carrots and onion gently until soft. Add the reserved marinade and the stock and boil until reduced by half. Pour over the oxtail then transfer the dish to the oven and cook for 7-8 hours, until the meat falls from the bone. Take the dish out of the oven and remove the oxtail pieces from the dish. Strain the stock through a fine sieve. When the meat is cool enough to handle, pull it into smaller chunks, removing any fat, gristle or bone. Mix the meat with the reduced stock and season to taste.

Put half the mixture into a tub for the freezer to use another time, the rest is for the base of the lasagne.

For the tomato sauce

Fry the onion and garlic gently for about 20 minutes, till translucent. Increase the heat and add the tomatoes - break them up with a wooden spoon if they are whole - and rosemary and salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer on a very low heat for about an hour. It is best to make the tomato sauce the day ahead of the lasagne - it will give it a greater depth of flavour as well as making prep on the day very quick. Remove the rosemary stick before using.

For the cheese sauce

In a heavy pan melt the butter and then stir in the flour. Keep stirring for about five minutes until it is golden in colour and smells biscuity. Increase the heat a little and start slowly adding milk, stirring all the while. By adding it gradually the sauce won't become lumpy. As each addition is absorbed add some more until you reach a consistency of thick cream. Turn the heat up fairly high then add the grated nutmeg and most of the grated cheese. Stir well with a wooden spoon till the cheese melts into the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

To assemble

In a large deep baking tray spread the base with the oxtail. Cover with sheets of lasagne then top that with the tomato sauce. Add another layer of lasagne sheets then top with the cheese sauce and, lastly the remains of the grated cheese. Cook in a moderate oven, gas 4, for 50 - 60 minutes till piping hot and golden topped.

Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. Needs nothing more than a crisp green salad and lots of bread to mop up the juice.


Sam said...

This sounds amazing! I absolutely love oxtail but have only ever made casseroles with it. I'm going to have to try this, thanks for the recipe.

bron said...

I really hope you enjoy it - it is a true winter dish and utterly fabulous for it.