Waste not, want not: once you’ve finished making this delicious broth, you can use the leftover oxtail meat however you wish.
I did my apprenticeship in a French kitchen (in the UK) and, very soon, became aware of how wonderful a pressure cooker can be. The cocotte-minute (pressure cooker) was always the Tefal brand. So fine a piece of kit it always was—and still is—that it remains the one I use at home to this day. A word of advice: don’t choose one that’s too small, as the joy of a bigger pot allows one to make the most of soups, stews and wonderful stocks cooked in less than half the usual time.
A very fine oxtail broth (serves up to 10—depending upon how many servings at a time)
For the broth
1 jointed oxtail, with as much of the fat removed as possible
2 carrots, halved lengthways
2 quartered onions
2 sticks of celery, cut into short lengths
4 large, sliced, dark-gilled mushrooms
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs thyme
4–5 sage leaves
1tspn black peppercorns
1tspn sea salt
2tbspn mushroom ketchup
1 litre beef stock
To finish the soup
Small carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
Peeled sticks of celery, diced small
Spring onions, trimmed and with green parts separated from white
Finely chopped oxtail meat
For the broth, take a large pressure cooker of a size that will accommodate the oxtail joints quite snugly. Add the remaining ingredients and then top up with water to cover by 1½in to 2in or so, then cook on full pressure for 40–50 minutes, but with the heat source at low; you only want to see a thread of steam escaping while the broth brews.
For conventional cooking, use a solid and lidded cooking pot— a Le Creuset is ideal, here—and, once brought up to a simmer, cook in the oven for about 2–2½ hours, or more. Whichever mode you use, the meat should be completely falling off the bone.
Once the oxtail is cooked, carefully remove only the joints from the broth, put onto a plate to cool and then remove the meat from the bones and place in a bowl or Tupperware box.
Strain the resultant broth through a sieve suspended over a large, deep bowl and allow to drip until every drop has been collected. Discard the exhausted debris and allow the broth to settle in a cool place.
Once the broth has cooled, remove any surface fat with sheets of absorbent kitchen paper until no more than just a few globules remain. Now, to achieve as clear a broth as possible, it is necessary to pour the broth through a colander (or a sieve, as before) lined with either a double-folded sheet of muslin or a clean tea-towel, into a new, clean pot.
Note: sniff your tea towel first before use! If it smells of washing powder, this will contaminate your lovely broth as it passes through, so soak it well in running cold water for some minutes before this process. Believe me, I have come to grief here on more than one occasion—Persil-scented broth is not nice.
To finish, it simply requires one to cook the suggested vegetables and barley in as much of the broth as needed, until tender. Barley and carrots first, then celery and the white part of the spring onions (thinly sliced).
Finely chop up some of the oxtail meat and add it to the broth (the remaining meat may either be frozen or turned into a lovely hash the following day), together with a little of the green onion tops, thinly sliced.
Finally, check for seasoning (I like it quite peppery), heat until hot—but not boiling—and decant into warmed soup plates.
This delicious, seasonal braised dish is perfection with either red-legged or grey partridge.
Nothing compares to the soft, floppy leaves of a homegrown British lettuce.