Taking the ..erm… Bull by the Tail…

It’s a funny old world we live in.  My blogging career (such as it is!), began with recipes and then, because I figured that the recipes on their own were just plain boring, I started sharing some of my associations with them. Then, one thing led to another, and I started writing about other stuff and taking the odd photograph.  So, it’s really been quite a while since I posted anything about my cooking.  Not that I’m short of material, or for that matter, people wanting recipes.  I have long promised Lavender Lady a follow up to the first batch of recipes – she wants to do a book….

As some of you know, I have, for the past five years had a food stall at the local pop-up market, and for those who are not familiar with where we live:  McGregor is a village in the heart of the winelands and with a population of about 7,000 people.  At most.  It’s somewhat off the beaten track (you can read a bit more about it here) and at that time there was no eating establishment open on a Sunday evening, so I suggested to The Husband that we host simple (ha!) Sunday Suppers in our home.  A service to the community.

The groups would have to be small – the house is small and we’d have to re-arrange things to make it work as a pop-up restaurant.  Also, we are not fans of being forced to sit with strangers, so we were not going to do a long table.  That also presented certain challenges.  Especially in winter when we couldn’t possibly have people spilling on to the veranda and into the garden.

Well, you know, there are two old sayings:

You’ll never know until you try it


Be careful what you wish for

Then using yet another idiom, be careful of words spoken in jest:  Sunday Suppers have become a regular and expected thing in the village.  But I run ahead of myself.

About a week into this new adventure, good friend and fabulous photographer, Selma sent me a message.

“I’d love to document one of your Sunday Suppers.  Can I?”

“WHAT?  Are you out of your mind?  It’s complete and utter chaos.  I don’t think I want all that sin exposed.  Besides, I’m neither camera shy and most certainly won’t be dressed for success.”

“No, man,” says she, “It’ll be of your hands and the food, the table, and, of course, the cats.  Mostly the cats.  We do weddings, you know.  You cannot imagine the mess that goes on there, hahaha!”

That last bit is, of course, the most believable part of the statement.  So I discovered after I was convinced.

“I’m going to be in the village because…, blah, blah, fish paste….” I was persuaded.  Anyhow, she arrived in the village and said, “I’ll see you on Sunday.  What time do you start prepping?”

“Well, actually, I’m going to be doing quite a lot on Friday so that things are a bit more manageable on Sunday.”

“I’m on my way!”

So began my first (and only) ever experience of being in front of the camera and I do admit that I had fun.  Mostly because Selma loves what she does, is more than good at it, particularly persuading reluctant subjects to conform to her whims.  The results of the two days’ shoot are here and also appear in this and many of my other posts where they are duly acknowledged because she has given me a gazillion fabulous photographs to use.  And I do:  virtually every time I put together the weekly menu which is posted in the local online newsletter and in the social media.

Photos: Selma

Then, on Saturday, when I get home from the market, Longtime Friend and like Selma, a wannabe McGregorite has sent me a message.  This was the WhatsApp exchange.

So think about it I did, and here’s what I sent:

Slow cooker Oxtail
(serves 4 with mash)

1 oxtail (probably about 800g to 1kg)
4 – 8 carrots (peeled (or not) but left whole) – makes for prettier presentation (and they don’t turn to mush)
1 onion finely chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic
vegetable oil
1 cup beef stock (250ml)
1 glass red wine (125 – 175ml)
1 bay leaf
Fresh / dried herbs of choice:  thyme, rosemary/McGregor Hebes de Provence*
2 tablespoons seasoned flour
1 dessertspoon Bisto (optional)
Salt & pepper

Lay the prepared whole carrots at the bottom of the slow cooker with the bay leaf.

Mix the seasoned flour with the Bisto if using and then roll the oxtail pieces the flour to cover.

In a large frying pan or skillet, with a little oil, brown the individual pieces.  Place in the slow cooker.

In the pan, add a little more oil if necessary and sauté the onion until glossy and transparent.

Add the herbs of choice and sauté for a little longer.  Then add the stock to de-glaze the pan.  Then add all the liquids t the slow cooker.  If the oxtail isn’t just about covered, add a little more water.

Cover and cook on high for about 5 hours.

If you have more time (like 7 hours), put on auto or low.

About an hour before serving, check the consistency of the gravy.  If not to your liking, remove a little of the liquid and add it slowly to a dessertspoon of flour until you have a smooth paste.  Add this to the stew and leave for an hour.

Adjust the seasoning at this point.  If you are using commercial stock (cubes), only add salt at this stage.

Serve with rustic mustard mash, the whole carrots and a green vegetable like beans or broccoli.

Longtime Friend served them with rice – one of the children doesn’t like potatoes.  What I should have suggested – to give the mash a bit of zing, and which I did last time I served oxtail for Sunday Supper, was to add about a dessert spoon of wholegrain mustard to the mash.

Download a printable version of the recipe here.

So it was, that the bull did get taken by the tail, and fourteen months later, Sunday Suppers seem to have become a village fixture.

In my happy place, preparing an early Sunday Supper. Photo: Selma

By the time guests arrive, the sin is mostly dealt with and guests are greeted with a warm fire and pretty tables.

Photo: Selma

Post script:

I’ve been missing awhile, I know, and it’s partly because I’ve been blogging on another platform and building a rep in the crypto world.  If it interests you, you will find me here

7 thoughts on “Taking the ..erm… Bull by the Tail…”

  1. Oh man … I’ve been out of the blogoverse for months, as you know, but thought I’d just stop by and see what you’d been up to … and dang, Fiona, I did NOT need to read about food just now! But I’ll be coming back for that oxtail recipe. Every year we keep the tails from our steers (Americans think the tails are for throwaway) and because I don’t know how to get that delicious gluey whatever it was my mother used to do with oxtail, as often as not I end up feeding them to the dogs. But I have to stop talking about food now…:)

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