Well, apart from food cooked slowly, these are people whose cookbooks, articles and TV shows are based on more than a collection of recipes. They are committed to the bigger picture; food that is sustainably grown, from artisan producers, from farmers who take genuine pride in raising their animals. There is real depth to their food. Which is why I can't wait to eat here.
So onto oxtail. As the name suggests, it's the tail of a cow. If you haven't tried it before or your face is screwing up at the very notion, I urge you to keep reading. It's some of the best meat you can eat – I'll go even further and say that right now having had this particular dish a few days ago, it's my favourite cut.
We used to eat a lot more oxtail in the UK, but then temperatures over there are more suited to food that bubbles away for hours on end.
I opted against a more traditional way of cooking oxtail and instead leafed through Kylie Kwong's Heart and Soul. I go through phases of craving authentic Chinese food that sings with the quality of its ingredients – much easier to come by in the city, sadly – so when I crave, I must do it myself.
I've never made a red-braising stock before, but the sound of shao hsing wine, soy, garlic, ginger, star anise and cinnamon was enough to get me started. I brought it all to the boil, then left the oxtail to braise in it gently for around three hours while we enjoyed each other's company in the garden.
The stock is sensational and every bit of those authentic Chinese flavours I was craving. The meat? It falls apart as you touch it, it's gelatinous and gooey and I almost ate the whole lot in the kitchen before anyone had sat down. I picked it apart for the boys (oxtail on the bone is a little too fiddly for small hands), added jasmine rice and brought it together with a bit of that rich stock and some roasted garlic. As we ate, we licked our fingers and we talked about the cut of meat. No eyebrows raised, no discussion needed and we moved onto other things to talk about.
I think that's enough meat for anyone for this Slow food series – if nothing else, this winter we're having is fooling no-one and what I feel like are barbecues, not braises. So unless I feel the need for cosy and warming again, I'll start work on my next series. Next up: spices! (And my own recipes...)
So tell me, will you make this?
Red-braised beef oxtail with roast garlic from Heart and Soul by Kylie Kwong
Kylie has 'roast tomatoes' in the title and in her recipe, but I didn't make these so I've left them out. You could easily make this without the garlic, which makes it even simpler – just make the stock and cook the oxtail in it and all you have to do is think about accompaniments (I chose rice, spring onions and some steamed pak choi). This makes about 6 litres of stock, which you can leave in the fridge for a few days or store in the freezer to use again and again. I'm looking forward to trying her red-cooked chicken. Serves 4.
1kg beef oxtail
1 quantity red-braising stock
3 garlic bulbs, unpeeled
1 tbsp olive oil
Place oxtail in a large pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, then drain, discarding the water. Rinse oxtail thoroughly under cold water and drain well. (This process rids the meat of any impurities prior to braising.) In a large stockpot, bring red-braising stock to the boil. Transfer oxtail to simmering stock, ensuring it is filly submerged. Braise very gently for 2-3 hours, or until oxtail is soft and gelatinous, skimming stock regularly with a ladle. Remove pot from stove and set aside.
Meanwhile, place garlic bulbs in a roasting tin and drizzle with the oil. Cover with foil and roast at 150C for about 1.5 hours, or until very soft and caramelised. Allow to cool slightly, then cut bulbs in half crossways and squeeze pulp into bowl. Combine pulp with 2 tsp of the red-braising stock.
Using tongs, gently remove oxtail from stock and garnish with a spoonful of roasted garlic.
Hugh FW's osso bucco
Tamasin Day Lewis's braised lamb shanks
Linking in with the fabulous Weekend Rewind over at Maxabella Loves.