Thursday, March 12, 2015

South African Style BBQ Oxtail Stew with Mint Rice

     A Good Tasting Oxtail Stew!
     While working in a restaurant about 15 years ago, some of the employees were talking about some kind of a BBQ stew recipe that was mentioned on television.  Many of the employees at the restaurant were Haitian immigrants.  When another cook and myself asked what they were all talking about, the excited employees said that a television news program mentioned that President Nelson Mandela of South Africa had a great private chef.  Apparently, Nelson Mandela's private chef was famous for a making a great tasting home style cooking.
     President Nelson Mandela liked traditional food and home style food.  His private chef's name was Xoliswa Ndoyiya or Xoli for short.  Chef Xoli was famous for her home style cuisine.  Her Home Style BBQ Stewed Oxtail Stew was a favorite of many people.  Later the recipe was published in a cookbook called, "Tastes from Nelson Mandela’s Kitchen."
     After the Haitian and African employees filled us cooks in on the details about why they were excited, the other cook and I turned to each other and said "That stew sounds pretty good!"  
     Oxtail was not exactly a popular item with American "middle of the road" customer tastes back then, but beef certainly was.  Back in those days, most of the American dining public did not know that oxtails are nothing more than cattle tails.
    I asked the other cook if he ever tried adding BBQ sauce to a beef stew recipe.  The other cook said that he did that all the time at home, but never sold it in a restaurant.  I mentioned that I also had a habit of adding BBQ sauce to beef stews that I made for my personal meals in restaurant kitchens and at home.  

     Years went by and I completely forgot about that BBQ Oxtail Stew.  I also stopped fiddling around with making BBQ Beef Stew.  Today I was doing some research and I was trying to find information about traditional African stews.  I ran across a plain looking page that had an article about President Nelson Mandela's favorite home style meal, which was the BBQ Spice Oxtail Stew that his private chef was famous for.  Then it clicked!  I remembered that day in the restaurant when the employees were excited about the recipe. 

    Adding BBQ Spices or BBQ Sauce to stews is an old American tradition.   I decided to wing it and make the stew from scratch with no pre-made manufactured products.  The idea was to make a good African style BBQ Oxtail Stew that was different than Chef Xoli's.  
    Several extra ingredients were included in my BBQ Oxtail Stew that are unique, like green onion, brown roux, cider vinegar, brown sugar and peanut butter.  Peanut butter is commonly used to thicken African stews and it is used to thicken a traditional Filipino Kare Kare Oxtail Stew.  The BBQ spices that were chosen are a custom blend that tastes good with beef. 

     South African BBQ Spice Oxtail Stew:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion!  
     This is a fairly easy recipe to make, but it can take a couple hours of slow stewing for the oxtail meat to become tender.  Because of the long cooking time, the ingredients are added in stages.
     Oxtail has a very high percentage of cartilaginous connective tissue, so the stew broth gains a very rich savory beef flavor.  It is important to thoroughly brown the oxtail in the first step of the recipe, so the broth becomes dark and full of flavor.  Using a high sided pot minimizes grease spattering.
     Be sure to have the onions, garlic and broth prepared ahead of time, so they can be added when the brown roux is ready.  
     Step 1:  Select 2 or 3 large meaty oxtail pieces that have a total weight of 12 to 14 ounces.  Small pieces are better for oxtail soups.  The proportion of meat to cartilage is about 50/50, so this is not as much meat as the total weight would suggest.  Do not trim the fat off of the oxtail pieces or the meat will just fall off the bones.
     Step 2:  Heat a large high sided sauce pot or stew pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 tablespoob of unsalted butter.
     Add the large oxtail pieces.  
     Saute the oxtail pieces, till they are thoroughly browned on all sides.
     Step 3:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Remove the browned oxtail pieces from the pot and set them aside.
     Pour the hot grease into a metal container.
     Measure 1 1/2 tablespoons of the grease and return it to the pot.
     Step 4:  Place the pot over medium heat.
     Add an equal amount of flour to the grease, while constantly stirring with a whisk.
     Stir till the roux turns turns a brown color.
     Step 5:  Add 2 partially crushed garlic cloves. 
     Add 1/2 cup of chopped onion.  (The onions and garlic will instantly cook in the hot roux and the roux will stop cooking!)
     Stir the mixture for about 10 seconds.
     Step 6:  Add 2 cups of beef broth.
     Stir with a whisk to deglace the pan and to combine the roux with the broth.
     Step 7:  Return the oxtail pieces to the pot.
     Add enough water to cover the oxtails with 2" of extra liquid.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of brown sugar.
     Add 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.  (chile caribe)
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 8:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer the oxtail pieces for 1 hour.
     Add water as necessary to barely keep the oxtail pieces covered with liquid.
     Step 9:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder.
     Add 1 pinch of garlic powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground ancho chile pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 pinch of ground clove.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of whole mustard seed.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard.
     Add 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.
     Step 10:  Continue to simmer over low heat, till the meat on the oxtail pieces starts to become tender.  Stop adding water and allow the stewing sauce to simmer and reduce.
     Step 11:  Add 3 or 4 large bite size pieces of peeled russet potato.
     Add 3 or 4 thick slices of carrot.
     Add 1/2 cup of green beans that are cut into bite size pieces.
     Simmer till the vegetables are tender and the stewing sauce reduces to a medium thin consistency.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Keep the stew warm over very low heat.

     Mint Rice:
     No broth is needed for this rice.  The mint provides a cool refreshing flavor for the BBQ Spice Oxtail Stew.
     Step 1:  Boil 1 cup of water over medium high heat in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1/2 cup of long grain rice.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of dried mint.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Return the liquid to a boil.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to low heat. 
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Simmer and steam the rice, till it becomes tender.
     Keep the rice warm on a stove top. 
     Use a cup or a ring mold to place the Mint Rice in a shallow stew bowl.
     Place the oxtail pieces in the bowl.
     Ladle the remaining stew ingredients into the bowl.  
     Garnish with a curly leaf parsley sprig.

     This South African style BBQ Oxtail Stew with Mint Rice tastes every bit as good as it sounds! 

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