Braised Oxtail Tacos

When I’m in on an open shift in the restaurant I usually get out of there between five and six in the evening. This will usually give me time to catch a film with the girlfriend, a few pints with the lads, an early night or a bit of experimentation in the kitchen. Rarely do I get to fit in more than that. So when leaving work I have to choose carefully. On this particular evening most people were busy, there wasn’t much on the big screen so I decided a bit of home cooking was in order. Wondering the aisles of the supermarket I saw that there was Oxtail on special. An evening to do a slow braised dish with an off-cut? Challenge accepted.

I decided to go with a recipe I had previously tried out in my time in Cooks Academy for a mock exam. Mexican Oxtail Tacos. The meat is succulent and rich enough that you only really need a small amount to deliver big flavour so it was ideal. How to get it to cook in time for me to eat without trespassing into the wee small hours of the morning? I realised recently that if you are cooking in a dutch oven, like this one, the meats cook a little faster. This is due to many boring reasons such as heat conduction, thermodynamics and the “Painting it red makes it go faster” trope.

The bottom line? What would normally cook in six hours cooks in three. Happy days.

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They like to watch me cook. It’s weird.

1 Whole Oxtail (about 800g)
2 Carrots
2 Red Onions
1 Red Pepper
2 Chillies
3 Cloves of Garlic
1Tbsp of Smoked Paprika
2 Tins of Chopped Tomatoes
1 Tin of Tomato Puree
1 Cinnamon Stick
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-Preheat your oven to 160 degrees.
-If your oxtail is still in one piece then roughly chop it into five or six segments.
-Get a large Dutch oven style pot onto a high heat with a little sunflower oil in the bottom.
-Add the oxtail pieces into the pan. We are going to brown them off really well before cooking all of our vegetables.
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-Finely chop up the carrots, the onions, the red pepper, the chillies and the garlic.
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-While you are chopping make sure to continuously turn the oxtail every few minutes to ensure the brown on all sides.
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-Once you are happy with the colour, remove the meat from the pan and set it aside. Reserve the oil and fat in the pan for your vegetables.
-Return the pot to a high heat and vigorously fry off the onions and carrots.
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-After about five minutes they should have taken on a decent amount of colour, at this stage you want to go in with the red pepper, the chillies and the garlic.
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-Cook these for about another five to ten minutes on the high heat. Keep stirring it every minute or so so that everything gets an equal amount of heat and contact with the pan.
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-When you are happy with the colour you can add in the smoked paprika for a minute of cooking.
-Then place the browned oxtail pieces on top of your sautéed vegetables.
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-Pour in the two tins of chopped tomatoes and the tin of tomato puree.
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-To make sure that everything doesn’t reduce too much while cooking you should also add in a full tin worth of boiling water.
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-Bring this all back up to the boil, then place a tight fitting lid on top and put it into the centre of your oven.
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-Each oven is different but I cooked this for about three hours at 160 and the meat came out perfectly. Test it after two and a half hours and if the meat falls off the bones without any resistance, then you are good to go.
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-Take the oxtail pieces out of the sauce and set them aside to rest.
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-Use a soup gun, food processor or blender to puree some of the braising liquid. This will give you an impromptu barbeque sauce.
-When the meat has cooled a little, start to pick the meat off the bones. There shouldn’t be too much work to this but I find a fork really helps to get around the awkward bits.
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When all of your meat is picked and your sauce is blended you are ready to go. I like to serve these on some flatbreads with a little pickle, chopped spring onion and coriander. It is a winner every time.

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