Friday, 2 August 2013

Slow food: Kylie Kwong's red-braised beef oxtail

Before you start to think this Slow food series is a cleverly disguised way of celebrity-name-dropping, I assure you it isn't. I've never met Kylie Kwong and I haven't even eaten in her restaurant. So is there a common thread to these posts?

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.


  1. I just don't know if I can get past the oxtail thing! Do you think it would work with another cut of meat?

    1. The one thing I would say if you are a little put off is that you don't buy it as a tail; it's always sliced into pieces/slices and you might think they were osso bucco or something. It just looks like meat on bone, and once you taste it - oh my! But yes this red-braising stock is good for braising brisket, chuck - anything really. The meat takes on its intense flavour and it's quite glorious. x

  2. Oh wow! This looks amazing. And slow food, well that's an idea I can absolutely get behind.

  3. Just stopping by after seeing your beautiful photography on the link-up... Love your blogs style and the recipe. Always keen to see other Australian recipe bloggers :)

  4. Sounds lovely. Love a slow-cooked meal. I have tried ox-tail once, and think I had a mental block to enjoying it. But I really need to expand my horizons! x

  5. The meal looks delicious and I LOVE Kylie Kwong..I have one of her cookbooks (Chicken and cashews takes like a chinese restaurant...amazing). It's funny that you mentioned oxtail and I saw the pictures however when you explained that it was really oxtail (obvious to some but not to others aka me!) I thought oooh yuk, ox tail............. however you do make a convincing argument with your photography for your meal so you just never know where that might lead!! Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia

  6. Hello Vanessa! Lovely to come across you via The Weekend Rewind. What a gorgeous site you have! I look forward to having a good look through & trying some of your recipes!! :)

  7. I really need to be braver. I did try once.
    My hubby had been to a work dinner and ordered 'slow cooked beef cheeks in red wine'. He raved for days so I decided some time later to cook it myself. When I got to the butcher I couldn't see 'beef cheeks' anywhere, so I asked if they had any and he replied "Oh love, they are over in the offal fridge." That was it for me, i couldn't do it.
    But I'll give your recipe a shot with Chuck steak
    Liv xx

  8. Oxtail is something I'd never buy or cook but I'd happily eat this with you!
    My hubby is the brave cook in this house (and the messy one!)

    ps - would love to see your mood board

  9. I love the idea of slow cooking. It's not that it takes longer, its just not fast food. Always sounds so delish when I say it!

    Popping in from Weekend Rewind. I always love discovering a new blog. x

  10. Looks absolutely delicious Vanessa! I would happily cook this dish although I've never cooked oxtail before because I'm a bit of a boring old cook. Must get a bit more inventive! Enjoy the rest of your weekend! Mel x

  11. Oh I love Kylie Kwong ! I have used this red braising stock to slow cook a cheap piece of pork , it pulled apart like fairy floss and was divine.
    I've never tried Ox-tail, mainly because Inever knew what to do with it ... think I will have to give it a go

  12. Oh yum! I need to make this soon! x

  13. I love this. The style of slow cooking feels very British but the red braising stock is full of Asian flavours. I associate those flavours with stir frying and fast cooking so I'd love to try them in something more like a stew. You've made me want autumn to hurry up and arrive so I can start cooking stews again! x

  14. This sounds amazing. I'll pass along to my hubby to make before it gets too wam here lol

  15. My word that looks delicious, Vanessa. I'm made for slow cooked food in Winter. They are made for each other! I will consider this one. The beef oxtail bit sounds a bit serious and scary, but I'll have a go!? x

  16. Oh my goodness. I must make this.
    Ronnie xo

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