Cook,

Jamaican Oxtail

Happy 55th Anniversary of Independence Jamaica!

To celebrate Jamaican independence day this year I asked my friend Rasheada, fellow Jamaican and blogger, to cook one of her favourite Jamaican dishes and she chose oxtail.

A lot of people don’t eat it because of what it is: tail meat. Oxtail is also a weird meat for me, as I generally don’t eat cow and my parents have never cooked it. I was introduced to oxtail before I can remember by my Grandma, probably in the form of soup (Jamaican oxtail soup though, not whatever in the hell this is). Fresh oxtail is widely available in butchers, but don’t expect to find it in Tesco.

Rasheada and I took a trip to Barry’s Meat Market on Woodgrange Road in Forest Gate; her family favourite butchers and most likely the same place my Grandma would have bought the oxtail I enjoyed as I child.

Preparations began by washing the meat in lemon and water in a large basin. Variety Seasoning is actually the spice of life, and the few but correct ingredients in seasoning your oxtail is what gives it that authentic Jamaican taste. Rasheada doesn’t cook from recipes so I’ve tried by best to guesstimate the measurements in this recipe.

‘Tell the people dem that I use my senses.’

We had asked for the oxtail to be cut into smaller pieces at the butchers but… they didn’t do it. 

Start by chopping…

  • one whole onions
  • two spring onions (scallions)
  • 3 cloves of garlic

… and adding to the meat.

For your dry seasonings add…

  • 3 tsp of dried mixed herbs
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 2 tsp all purpose seasoning
  • approx 20 pimento seeds
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme

A non-essential but quintessential ingredient in Jamaican oxtail aesthetic is browning – add 1-2 tbsp. Check out Fay at Cook Like A Jamaican for more information on browning! 

GET YOUR HANDS IN. NO A SPOON WON’T DO.

Once your meat is seasoned leave to marinate for as long as you can. You could cover it and leave it in the fridge over night.

Cooked down oxtail takes a while, and there’s no slow cooker business in Jamaican households. Heat 2tbsp vegetable oil on a

medium-high heat in a pan before adding your meat to sear.

Once each piece has a nice brown colour, reduce to a low heat, cover with boiling water and leave for 20 minutes with the lid on.

After about 20 minutes you’re going to have to use your judgement. It will need more water but not as much as at first – you’re making a stew, not a soup. At this stage add another chopped onion. Leave for another 30 minutes, covered.

I don’t like butterbeans, but they’re essential. And what I don’t like about butterbeans, I don’t notice or taste when cooked into oxtail. By now your meat should be tenderising and you shouldn’t need to add any more water.

Add

  • one tin of butter beans
  • one carrot, chopped
  • one beef tomato, in small cubes

Now back to your senses and cooking judgement. When your house is infused with a delicious smell, and meat it visibly beginning to detach from the bone, you’re done! It took Rasheada around another 30 minutes.

I prefer oxtail with white basmati rice rather than rice and peas, but each to their own (and if you have time to make rice and peas which we did not).

Thank you Rasheada for showing me how she throws it down in the kitchen for Jamaican Independence Day! Expect to see more collaborations with her in the future both on the blog and over on the Table for Two Podcast!

Have you heard it? Listen to episode one right here or over on iTunes!

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