Monday 28 September 2009

basque oxtail stew

I have always enjoyed eating oxtails but, until this year, I had never cooked them myself. That's why they were another one of the tasks I set myself in my 2009 Food Challenges.

I have to say oxtails were a little difficult for me to prepare. It felt like they took forever to get tender and, once they were, I had a doozy of a time picking the meat from their boney wheels. But I'd certainly cook them again.

This particularly recipe was a hearty winter dish. The flavours are warm and robust and I loved eating the rich gravy over chunks of boiled potato.

On egin!

Behi Buztanak Anda Goriren Zaltzan (Basque Oxtail Stew)

Recipe adapted from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines by Jeff Smith. Serves 2-4.

800g oxtails, rubbed with salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup chopped celery
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, sliced
2 cloves garlic
1 shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1¼ cups beef stock
¾ cups red wine
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon dried thyme, whole
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1. Using a heavy pot, brown the seasoned oxtails in the olive oil. Remove to a plate to rest.

2. Leave the oil in the pot and sauté the celery, onion, carrots, garlic, shallots, and parsley.

3. When the onions are clear add the flour and stir in well. Sauté for a few minutes.

4. Add the beef stock, red wine, bay leaves, and thyme, along with the oxtails. Simmer partially covered for 1 hour, or until tender. Stir occasionally.

5. Add salt and pepper to taste as the dish finishes.

I have actually posted about thyme previously for WHB but, since I’m only plagiarising myself, I thought I’d re-post it here:

The name thyme covers a genus (Thymus) of around 350 herbaceous plants and shrubs, native to Europe, North Africa and Asia. The stems are narrow and woody while the leaves are dense and evergreen in most versions.

Thyme has been used for millennia for a variety of different purposes: Ancient Egyptians used it for embalming; Ancient Greeks scented theirs baths and candles with it; Romans used it to flavour cheese and alcohol; and in Medieval Europe it was used to aid sleep and prevent nightmares.

It has been believed to bring courage since the times of Ancient Greece and during the Middle Ages in Europe knights and warriors would receive sprigs as gifts.

It’s essential oil contains 20-55% thymol, which is an antiseptic and apparently the active ingredient in Listerine mouthwash. Previously thymol was used to disinfect bandages; kill foot fungus; treat coughs, bronchitis and throat inflammation; and aid childbirth. Gargling water that has been boiled with thyme can be a useful mouth and throat antiseptic.

Unlike other herbs, thyme retains much of its flavour after being dried and is used widely in the cuisines of Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Lebanon and the Caribbean. It pairs well with game meat, lamb, chicken, eggs, tomatoes and cream. Thyme is also a feature of famous spice blends such as bouquet garni, herbes de Provence and za'atar.

This week our WHB host is Marija from the gorgeously photographed blog Palachinka! Try her red risotto, leche frita, elderberry jam or homemade orange liqueur for starters, then check out her round-up of this week's herby recipes.

Other thyme recipes from The Net include:
Baked Jerusalem Artichokes w Thyme & Lemon - Morsels & Musings
Butter Bean, Bacon & Thyme Soup - Greedy Gourmet
Corn Bite w Thyme - Eat Make Read
Green Beans w Almonds & Thyme - Simply Recipes
Mushroom & Thyme Farro Salad - Closet Cooking
Peach & Thyme Sorbet - Je Mange La Ville
Peach, Blueberry & Thyme Cupcakes - Cupcake Blog
Poached Pears w Wild Thyme & Raspberries - Dhanggit's Kitchen
Roast Chicken w Lemon & Thyme - Morsels & Musings
Roasted Figs w Thyme, Cinnamon & Honey - Nami Nami
Roasted Strawberry & Thyme Sherbet - Baking Obsession
Sage, Rosemary & Thyme Ice MilkJe Mange La Ville
Savory Pecan, Parmesan & Thyme Shortbread - Pittsburgh Needs Eated
Strawberry, Rhubarb & Thyme Shortcakes - Baking and Books
Strawberry Thyme Stuffed Cupcakes - Feeding Maybelle
Thyme-Braised Lentils w Petimezi - Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska
Thyme Flower Ice Cream - Chez Pim
Thyme, Hazelnut & Lemon Cookies - My Own Sweet Thyme
Tomato-Thyme Soup - Farida's Azerbaijani Cookbook
Venison w Juniper, Blueberries & Thyme - Morsels & Musings
Zucchini Bake w Feta & Thyme - Kalyn's Kitchen

This time previously on Morsels & Musings:
2008 - Chorizo & Chickpea Tapa
2007 - Spelt Fettucine w Hazelnuts & Goats Curd
2006 - Lebanese coriander potatoes


  1. looks delicious. and thanks for the mention.

  2. I love Oxtail on a cold winters day but I think your 1 hour cooking time is a bit optimistic. I usually allow at least 2 hours. My recipes are very similar to yours though I usually add 3 or 4 peeled tomatoes and some separately cooked haricot beans.
    For a lovely messy foodie meal serve the tails still on the bone and supply lots of paper towels!

  3. mom - a pleasure!

    rhian - i agree with you. it took so much longer than 1 hr. i should have amended the recipe but i forgot. now that you've pointed it out i am going to edit it.

  4. I've wanted to make something with oxtails for ages! Thanks for this recipe!


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