Is this what Easter in Africa looks like?
Maybe; maybe not. The fact of the matter is though, that ox tail is enjoyed all over the continent and there are thousands of different varieties of ways we can make them. I enjoy ox tail like crazy, it is an extremely hearty meal and probably the ultimate in comfort food. It is very rich though, therefore we enjoy it at home, perhaps once or twice a year. It is also probably the number 1 choice as a sadza accompaniment. As Easter is just around the corner, I had been thinking about what would be great to eat… other than the very popular western choice of roast lamb. I did not have to look long and hard as I ventured into the supermarket, the ox tail jumped out as if intending to whip me in the face. I give you one out of a thousand ways to make ox tail.
1 to 1.2 kg ox tail
1 red onion
1 small brown onion
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp flour
1 can chopped tomato
1 tbsp mixed herbs
1 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tbsp dried thyme
3 bay leaves
450 ml chicken stock
450 ml beef stock
2 to 3 scotch bonnet peppers, left whole
salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1. In a large cast iron pot, brown the ox tail pieces. There is no need to add any oil.
2. Peel and chop the root vegetables, onion and leek into cubes.
3. Once the ox tail has browned, add the prepared vegetables and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the tomato puree and the flour*, ensure all ingredients are coated well then add the chopped tomatoes.
*Sometimes the ox tail pieces are coated in flour and then fried to brown them. I find this process produces a lot of smoke and burns the flour, resulting in black burnt bits and added bitterness to what should be a beautifully sweet ragout, so I have found a simple way is to add the flour as described above. It coats the ingredients without forming lumps and still serves its purpose as a sauce thickener.
4. Add the herbs, peppers and stock. The stock should be enough to just cover the ox tail. Bring to a simmer then transfer to the oven and slow cook for 3 to 4 hours. Check there is enough liquid to prevent burning during the slow cooking. This should result in a lovely sweet and thick sauce. Serve with sadza or rice and your favourite greens. I served mine with a simple side of sautéed spinach.