With Gothenburg’s drawn-out winter coming to a welcome end and the sun melting away the iced over canals I find myself looking forward to BBQs, grilled fish and summery salads. But whilst the sun is warm when it’s out the thermometer struggles to get above zero in the shade. Such chilly evenings mean that Stewie Griffin – my slow cooker – has still got a role to play. Although I suspect this Mexican oxtail stew is probably his last outing for many months. And fittingly, he’s gone out with a bang.
Stewie has dealt with many a chilli. As I go to sleep he takes over and nurses his tough, sinewy contents into soft, savoury, spicy, unctuousness. I love waking up to the smell of slow cooked stews. There’s something very reassuring about knowing that you’ve got a delicious week ahead.
I guess you could call this chilli con carne. But I’d like to think it’s a bit more interesting and layered than that. I never use mince and normally use shin, flank, blade or brisket. But this time I managed to get my hands on some Swedish oxtail which turned out to be quite a sensation. I've no idea how authentically Mexican this is, but I do know that I like eating it.
1 whole oxtail – cut into portions by the butcher 4 onions 4 cloves of garlic 2 tins of pinto or black beans 4 cartons of chopped tomatoes 2 dessert spoons of fennel seeds 1 stick of cinnamon 4 dried Chipotle chillies 4 dried New Mexico Red chillies 300ml water 1 beef stock cube Dark chocolate 2 dessert spoons of smoked paprika 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil Pepper Salt
Avocado Smoked salt 1 Fresh red chilli Natural yoghurt or sour cream
Soften the onion in the sunflower oil. Then add the garlic. And then add the paprika. Allow to sweat and then add to the slow cooker. Add some water to the pan to get out all the lovely flavours and add it to the pot.
If you can be arsed, colour the oxtail in a frying pan having dunked the pieces in seasoned flour. If you haven’t got time, don’t worry, and add the oxtail pieces to the slow cooker. Then tip in the chopped tomatoes. Then rinse the beans and add them too. Lob in the dried chillies, fennel seeds, stock cube, water and cinnamon. Turn the slow cooker on and cook on low for 6-7 hours until the meat is soft.
Leave to cool. Then skim off the layer of fat and pick out the oxtail. Remove the meat from the bones. It’s a messy job, but essential. Boil up the bones in some water in order to extract the awesome gelatin from the bones. And then add this back to the mixture along with the meat. Give the bones to a deserving dog and take the cinnamon stick out too.
Leave to mature and then spoon some of the, now very solid, mixture into a pan and heat it up. Squirt in some tomato sauce (secret ingredient), add a square of dark chocolate, ample seasoning and add some finely chopped fresh red chilli. Heat it through and if it is a bit too liquid reduce it over a high heat stirring regularly. Serve with some brown rice, a sliced avocado and either some sour cream or some natural yoghurt. Sprinkle with smoked salt and tuck in.
It's a rich, smoky, spicy dish with layers of heat from the 3 types of chilli. The chipotles give it a smoky tang whilst the Mexico Reds add some fruitiness and the fresh chillies give it an abrupt kick. Brown rice, yoghurt and avocado make it pretty healthy.
One of the great things about making vats of delicious slow cooked food is the fun of transforming it into different meals over the days that follow. The mixture is also great in tortillas alongside avocado and sour cream, would make a sensationally rich filling for a pie, would be knockout as a filling for a Mexican sandwich called a torta and with the sun starting to emerge would make a mind blowing topping for a burger.
We still love to go on trips around the UK, staying in BnBs or camping in search of a good meal or two - hence, Around Britain with a Paunch. Quite often the trips have been prompted by Diana Henry's Gastro Pub Cookbook. Here's where we've been to: