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This is one of those glittering soups that pack a mighty flavour punch, the sort of food that leaves you glowing with health and feeling rather smug...
Now were in the dreary depths of winter, soup means comfort and succour, the edible equivalent of a warm bed. You want something to soothe and cosset the taste buds and soul, a bowlful of liquid bliss. Oxtail soup never fails to delight, seriously meaty yet surprisingly sprightly. And made all the better by a few chunks of meat left bobbing within, so soft they can be cut with a spoon. French onion soup is another all time classic, the bubbling Gruyere lid hiding the sweet, searing hot liquid below. Paprika spiked goulash, chilli flecked gumbo, fiery Thai chicken and lemongrass, beet stained borsch. Or even plain tomato. All stand shoulder to shoulder in sippable magnificence. Soup. One small word. A million beautiful spoonfuls.
It also makes the base for a bullshot, one of the finest hot cocktails about. Heat the consomm and mix with Worcester sauce, Tabasco and the juice of half a lemon, then pout into glassed and mix with a measure of vodka. In summer, drink over ice...
1 oxtail, cut into 4 pieces
2 onions, split lengthways, topped and tailed but not peeled.
2 carrots, roughly chopped
4 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
6 black peppercorns
A handful of parsley stalks
200 ml of dry white wine
A good splash of Fino or Manzanilla sherry, to serve...
Trim all excess fat off the oxtail, cut up and put into a baking tray, with onions. Put into a 250 c oven for 20 minutes to brown.
Put the browned meat and onions into a big pot along with carrots, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns and parsley stalks. Cover with water (filtered if possible), about 2 litres, and the wine. Bring to boil, skim, then turn the heat down so there is the occasional blip rather than constant bubble, Do not let it boil.
Cook for about 4 hours, topping up the water if needs be.
Sieve (reserving some shards of oxtail meat), cool and put into the fridge overnight. It should set into a mass of gleaming brown jelly. Skim off fat, then put the jelly into a pan and gently reheat. Ladle into serving bowls with a few nuggets of meat and add a dash of sherry to taste...
Recipe courtesy of Tom Parker Bowles.