oxtail ragu

having really enjoyed angela hartnett’s rabbit ragu a few weeks ago i was excited to see a skye gyngell recipe for oxtail ragu in one of the weekend papers.

i picked up a ring of oxtail from the ginger pig at borough market for £9 and got stuck in. like the angela hartnett recipe, skye called for the meat to be added to slow-cooked carrots, celery (i used fennel), garlic and herbs, but in this case the oxtail is slow-cooked in red wine rather than stock. this results in meltingly soft meat and a rich glossy red-wine sauce enriched by the marrow from the bones.

there was a lot of fat on my oxtail so, rather than serving the ragu immediately i let it chill overnight so i could remove the fat, making it a much healthier dish. i also discarded the vegetables, as angela hartnett’s recipe advises, as they had no flavour after three hours of cooking. instead i fried, until just softened, some additional fennel and carrots and added this to the ragu when i heated it through.

having tried the ragu with and without the extra vegetables, i preferred the former as they balance well with the richly flavoured meat (it’s still good without them, so don’t worry if you don’t have the time or inclination to add them in).

i have two other ideas for using this ragu. when the meat is cooked there is still a lot of liquid left. rather than reduce it you can use this to cook your pasta using the absorption method - i did this with one portion of the meat plus ditali rigati pasta and it worked wonderfully, especially given the mix of gruyere and parmesan which i served it with. i also think it would be wonderful as a filling for ravioli if you want to fancy things up a bit more!

i am sharing this dish (these dishes!) with ruth the founder of presto pasta nights who is playing host for the first edition of the year. i'm a bit early but hopefully she'll not mind. happy new year, my friends.

tagliatelle with oxtail ragu (serves 4)

i suggest you make this a day in advance so you can remove much of the fat that is released as the oxtail cooks.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

½ a bulb of fennel, finely chopped (or you can use celery)

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

3 fresh bay leaves

a handful of sage – i used 3 sprigs

a pinch of chilli flakes

1kg oxtail, cut into pieces 1-3” wide

1 heaped teaspoon tomato puree

a pinch of cinnamon or cloves (optional)

700ml red wine

a handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

optional – 2 carrots, finely chopped and the remaining ½ bulb of fennel, finely chopped

using a large pan, heat the olive oil over a low heat and fry the carrots, fennel, garlic, herbs and chilli flakes for 15 minutes. the vegetables will be quite soft.

season the oxtail well and add to the vegetables along with the tomato puree, cinnamon and wine. cover with a lid and bring to a boil. lower the heat and simmer gently for three hours, by which time the meat will be falling off the bone and the sauce will be glossy and rich.

remove the oxtail and set aside until it is cool enough to handle and then pick off any meat and discard the bones. strain the stock, discarding the vegetables and return to a clean pan. add the meat and place over a medium heat. simmer until reduced and thick.

meanwhile, if you are adding the extra vegetables, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and gently fry the additional fennel and carrot until they are just cooked. add them to the thickened ragu. season to taste (i needed quite a lot), add the parsley and serve with tagliatelle.