Last October, a bunch of us MIDRA (men in denial of the reality of ageing) went on a seven day cycling trip to the mountains of Southern Spain, taking in exotic, historic towns including Seville, Ronda and Granada. We also cycled up and down some huge mountains, some of our group conquering the Pico de Veleta, one of the greatest cycling challenges in Europe. The mountain is the third highest peak in Spain, and the highest paved road in Europe. Spain is a beautiful country and well worth the trip if you have the inclination. As in any group of men, there are leaders and followers. On the Spanish food front, our buddy Seamus is a leader. He has spent more time in that part of Spain, than the rest of us. Using his experience of the region, he took charge of some of our restaurant bookings. His thought, to give us some insight into local food traditions. One of the highs of the trip for me was the night we had the Spanish Oxtail Stew.
We were a band of twenty with the usual mix of allergies, food preferences and prejudices. Many of our group are better cyclists than me. But, when it comes to getting to grips with a recipe, I am peerless (peerless in that group of old grumblers anyway). On our second night in Ronda, Seamus booked our party into a private room in a local restaurant. We were served that delicious Oxtail Stew. But, oxtail is oxtail and some of the lads were a little less than impressed with it. I think they were a bit off-put by the thought of eating that part of the animal. It’s not for everybody but, here’s my take on a traditional Spanish Oxtail Stew.
8 to 10 slices of smoked Spanish chorizo
800 gms (2 tins) of chopped tomatoes
250 ml of home made beef stock
2 teaspoons of tomato paste
1 teaspoon of hot paprika
2 teaspoons of smoked paprila
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper
1 glass of robust red wine (Rioja fits the bill)
3 or 4 ribs of celery
3 or 4 onions
2 or 3 carrots
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon of leek flakes (entirely optional)
Slice the chorizo into small pieces and fry it off in the bottom of a large casserole.
Dice the onions, carrots and celery into small cubes. Sweat them down in the chorizo oil in the large casserole dish, adding a little of the beef stock if they get too dry and are in danger of burning. When they are soft, add the wine.
Pack in the oxtail in a single layer on top of the vegetables.
Add the remaining ingredients, stopping only to photograph the beautiful redness of the tomatoes.
Cover with a tight fitting lid and place it in a 160ºC (320ºF) oven for five and a half to six hours. The oxtail will release a lot of fat. Spoon this off the top before serving with some nice creamy mashed potatoes. The meat will simply fall off the bone. The stew has a fantastic consistency and will warm you through and through.
Seamus would love this stew. The unctuous consistency from the slow cooking is delightful. The layers of flavour are numerous and I look forward to our next cycling adventure where our group gets to eat delicious traditional dishes, whether they like them or not. Gracias Seamus.