The Marshall Trewin House of Fun
Somewhere in Norfolk
Reservations: Strictly By Invitation Only
Guest Reviewer Ross Marshall
Cooking 8/10* | Service 2/5** | Flavour 6/5*** | Value 5/5****
It’s Friday and Tom’s oxtail recipe has just dropped into my phone. Looks interesting – though, clearly, it’s very fatty in the cooking. Being Scottish, I have a high fat intake anyway, and I try to shy away from excess animal fat/grease when I can, but I am always intrigued to try more unusual dishes. Memories of Africa and a very thin tasteless wildebeest tail soup while on a hunting safari in Tanzania were a dark cloud on my culinary horizon, but Tom’s recipe was clearly in a much higher, and much tastier bracket.
I thought nothing more about it, until a week later. I was in a local Norfolk butcher’s shop where I espied oxtail for sale. Fast forward four days and, early one afternoon, I am following Tom’s sage advice on trimming the excess fat from the meat. It became clear as I prepared to move from STAGE 1 (browning the oxtail, rough hewn onions - I added two whole shallots - and carrots) to STAGE 2 (simmering for 2 hours - the oxtail, not the cook) that Tom’s advice is right. It is much easier to use the same heavy bottomed pan to simmer the mix on the hob, than put a casserole dish in the oven. After 30 minutes, the kitchen filled with darned good smells. This was looking good.
My eye was taken off the ball, because I had to make an urgent trip to an elderly but sprightly neighbour (EBSN) who needed my help. Just when I should have been letting the meat cool down and the fat solidify on top for easy removal, the pan continued to simmer on the hob, and the recipe’s further 3 hours’ oven cooking time was crashing into the once distant deadline for serving up the meat à table. Is it such bad form to eat oxtail stew, started during the lunchtime Archers, whilst watching Newsnight? And the meat itself? By this stage it looked perfectly cooked. Another 3 hours… really?
After blotting off barely discernible fat, into the oven it went, as instructed, adding tomato purée and, yes, fresh! basil from our garden. I love lemons, and we always have half a dozen in the kitchen, so I was generous with the lemon juice. I often cook chicken with a whole peeled lemon inside it – maybe next time for the oxtail? (Editor’s Note – NOOOO!)
Accompanying veg were organised, and She and I sat down to wait with gin, tonic and…lemon. After 2½ hours, we could wait no longer. The meat looked perfect. The juices were sooooo rich we couldn’t eat them all, even with some of the best mash I’ve ever had, made with our local farmer’s potatoes. It left us with two tubs of fantastic sauce to re-use elsewhere. The meat was delicious, but I would recommend good lighting so you can pick out the morceaux hiding in the nooks and crannies of the bones. And there were some little bits which could have done with extra cooking. So, 3 hours in the oven is truly what you need, not 2½. Damn, Tom was right again…now he’s going to be insufferable. Turns out that long-cooked oxtail is a favourite of EBSN, who advised putting celery into the mix. A different EBSN recalled wistfully eating sustaining oxtail stew in her youth. VERDICT: This is a dinner treat for hearty meat eaters who should delight in this rarely used rustic cut with its intense flavours. Vegans, vegetarians and the unadventurous need not apply.
*A long time but worth it
**Don’t get distracted by EBSNs or you might end up, like me, with 2/5
*** Yes, six out of five
**** Great value cut of meat. And how much do carrots and onions cost?
Ross Marshall is a sometime broadcaster turned business supremo, to say nothing of foodie, gourmet and buongustaio, which is saying the same thing three times, as we often do late of an evening in each other's company. We have known each other since we were seven. No point in my giving him snash - he could easily respond in kind.