Braised Oxtail with Polenta
Oxtail is an undervalued cut of meat and becomes unctuous when slow cooked. The saffron gives it an extra luxuriousness and the gremolata adds freshness to the rich flavour. The meat can be served on or off the bone. Slow-cooked dishes like this suit reheating, too. If you have time, salt the meat the night before cooking – it will give it even more flavour.
It is worth buying freshly dried polenta, which smells sweetly of freshly ground maize, rather than pre-cooked. It takes longer to cook, but it requires stirring only now and again, so you can make it while you are pottering around doing other things in the kitchen.
This recipe originally featured in the February 2019 edition of House & Garden magazine
For the oxtail
- 4tbsp olive oil
- 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
- 2kg oxtail
- 200ml white wine
- 1tbsp tomato paste
- Bouquet garni of thyme, sage and 2 bay leaves tied with string
- Small pinch saffron, crumbled and soaked in 2tbsp hot water
For the gremolata
- 20g bunch flat leaf parsley
- 1 unwaxed lemon
- 1 fat garlic clove
For the polenta
- 300g polenta
- 75g butter
- 40g Parmesan, grated
- Heat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/mark 4. Heat 2tbsp oil in a large casserole and sauté the vegetables with salt for at least 10 minutes, until they are completely soft and starting to colour.
- Meanwhile, remove any excess fat and salt the oxtail liberally – this will give it lots of flavour. Heat the remaining 2tbsp oil in another frying pan and brown the meat all over, on a medium-to-high heat, in batches if necessary.
- Remove to a plate and deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping the bottom as it boils and reduces. Add the tomato paste along with 300ml water, then pour into the casserole with the vegetables,bouquet garni, saffron and meat. Season well.
- Bring to the boil, cover with baking paper and a lid, and bake in the oven for at least 2½-3 hours, turning the pieces after 1 hour and reducing the heat to 160°C/fan oven 140°C/mark 3. Add water if it is not juicy enough. When cooked, the meat should be tender and come away from the bone.
- To make the gremolata, strip the leaves from the parsley and finely chop. Finely zest the lemon to get the skin and no pith. Finely chop the garlic. Stir everything together. Pull the meat off the bone (if you choose) and serve on the polenta (recipe below) with the juices and the gremolata poured over.
For the polenta:
- Bring 2 litres water to the boil, add ½tsp salt and add the polenta in a thin stream (I use a jug), stirring with a wooden spoon to stop lumps forming.
- Allow it to bubble volcanically before reducing the heat to low and stirring every few minutes. Cook like this for about 1½ hours, until it has reduced in volume and is coming away from the sides of the saucepan. You will find you need to stir it more frequently as the cooking progresses. If it is getting too thick, add more boiling water.
- Stir in the butter and the Parmesan, and season with salt to taste. Pour as much as required onto a serving plate immediately.