I sat down to pen a brief reflection on my culinary escapades just before embarking on a two-week hiatus. The reason for this pause? My daughter successfully completed the second stage of her journey through cancer recovery with a surgery, a significant milestone. Counting my blessings, I find myself in the fortunate position to spend quality time with her and my lovely granddaughters—my beautiful babies. Even my son is flying in from Columbia to join us as we celebrate Thanksgiving together. It’s been over five years since we all gathered for this special holiday, marked by the delightful spread of traditional Puerto Rican dishes.
In the midst of all this, my thoughts wander to Mr. P, and I ask for your prayers as he navigates his meals solo during my absence. Hopefully, he won’t resort to the infamous “weinies on bread” move – he once humorously sent me a picture of as his dinner before we met. I suspect he was just trying to make me feel guilty. Oh, and fear not—there’s a comforting oxtail stew waiting in the freezer for his culinary rescue!
Oxtail Odyssey: A Stewpendous Recipe for Belly Laughs and Flavor Feasts!
I burst onto the scene in Wisconsin, a state where the air is infused with the scent of cheese, hot homemade bread slathered in melted fresh butter, and beef so tender it practically gives hugs. It’s like a culinary welcome party where the cows wear cheese crowns.
Then, for a solid 18 years, my taste buds went on a Caribbean vacation. Think vibrant flavors, dancing spices, and a love affair with my tummy that could rival a tropical romance novel. Caribbean cuisine, you had me at the first spicy salsa dance.
And then there’s Mr. P, the English epicurean, who’s all in for the comforting concoctions his dear Mum conjured up when he was knee-high to a grasshopper. Picture this: a cozy bowl of English goodness, with a side of curry because, let’s face it, curry is the magical fairy dust that transforms meals into masterpieces. It’s the kind of comfort food that envelops you in a culinary hug, whispering sweet nothings like, “You’re home.” Well, at least that’s his idea of ‘home’—where curry is the compass pointing to comfort, and each bite is a nostalgic journey down memory lane.
And speaking of curry, did you know it’s like the popular kid at the South African flavor party? It made its grand entrance with the Indian labourers in the nineteenth century, and now, it’s the VIP of curried dishes that people of all ethnic origins can’t get enough of.
So, here we are—a Wisconsin-born cheese aficionado topped with a Caribbean spice enthusiasm, and Mr. P., the English comfort food connoisseur with a curry twist. It’s a flavor trio that’s as eclectic as a kitchen dance party. Cheers to cheese crowns, Caribbean beats, and curry quirks—may our taste buds boogie in blissful culinary chaos!
Get ready for a rollercoaster ride through my South African culinary escapades! Imagine a battlefield where my taste buds faced off against traditional dishes, armed with a healthy dose of skepticism. I mean, cranberry sauce on Christmas ham was already toeing the line, but here in the land of braais and bunny chow, we’ve taken the fruit and spice game to a whole new level of madness.
Since 2019, I’ve called the land of sunsets and safari home, where traditional South African dishes are as diverse as the wildlife that roams its breathtaking landscapes. Join me on this wild culinary safari as we explore exotic tastes that have left my taste buds in a state of bewilderment and my stomach questioning its life choices. Buckle up, it’s about to get tasty, adventurous, and maybe a little bit wild!
So, here I am, narrating my epic battle with traditional South African dishes. It’s a tale of taste buds bewildered, a stomach questioning its life choices, and me navigating the culinary safari of a lifetime.
First up, we have Bobotie, a dish that sounds more like a secret password than a meal. Picture minced meat, doing a tango with curry spices, onions, milk-soaked bread, and a surprise guest appearance by dried fruit—raisins or sultanas, to be precise. It’s a flavor fiesta that had my palate doing somersaults, and not necessarily in a graceful way.
Now, let’s talk about Boerewors, the rock star of South African cuisine. This farmer’s sausage doesn’t just enter the scene; it struts in with a leather jacket and sunglasses, declaring itself the headliner of the flavor concert. Crafted from beef mince and spiced up with cloves, nutmeg, and coriander, it’s a taste explosion that hits your palate like the grand finale of a fireworks show.
You’ve got to experience this culinary adventure. I took a bite, and it was like my taste buds and stomach hopped on a rollercoaster through a spice wonderland. Now, I have to confess, cloves and coriander are on my list of least favorite spices, especially when it comes to meat. It’s as if the sausage glanced at your grandma’s secret spice cabinet and declared, “Let’s shake things up a bit, shall we?” Brace yourself for a flavor journey that’s both daring and unexpected!
Now, imagine entering the wild world of South African braais, or as our American friends call it, a ‘cook-out’ (because apparently, standing around a fire is just an excuse for a group sing-along). In this carnivorous carnival, there’s a sausage that’s more anticipated than the encore of a legendary band—the mighty Boerewors. I’ve been to more braais than I can count on my fingers, and not once have I witnessed a Boerewors-less gathering. It’s like the party can’t officially kick off until the Boerewors makes its grand entrance, waving its spiced-up banner like the conquering hero of the barbecue realm.
And let’s not forget Bunny Chow, the street food sensation that, despite its misleading name, has nothing to do with fluffy bunnies. Instead, it’s a hollowed-out loaf of bread generously filled with mutton curry. Because nothing says street food like a loaf of bread transformed into a culinary vessel for a curry adventure. It’s like a foodie’s dream and a carb enthusiast’s nightmare rolled into one.
Now, you might be wondering, “If these are the culinary highlights, what’s the food scene like on a regular day?” Well, let me tell you, my friends, it’s a gastronomic rollercoaster, and my taste buds are still recovering from the ride.
Ah, the classic “eyes-on-you” shrimp dilemma—a seafood stare-down that could rival a poker match. Picture this: you order a plate of beautiful shrimp, and there they arrive, heads on, eyes wide open, giving you the full oceanic gaze.
Now, you’re left with a decision more daunting than a choose-your-own-adventure novel. Do you engage in a staring contest with your dinner, hoping the shrimp will blink first? Or do you bravely dive into the plate, pretending the eyes are just there for decorative purposes?
It’s a seafood spectacle, a crustacean challenge that tests not only your culinary courage but also your ability to maintain eye contact with your meal. After all, who needs a staring competition with their dinner? It’s like the shrimp are saying, “Enjoy your meal, and by the way, we’re watching.”
So, here’s to the brave souls who tackle the shrimp with heads on—a gastronomic adventure where every bite comes with a side of aquatic eye contact. Just remember, it’s not you; it’s the shrimp trying to assert their dominance on the seafood platter. Bon appétit, with a side of shrimp-staring resilience!
But fear not, for in the midst of this culinary chaos, I stumbled upon a shining beacon of hope: Oxtail Stew. Yes, you heard me right—oxtail, the unsung hero of South African cuisine. It’s a dish so delicious that it could convert even the most skeptical taste buds, mine included.
The Yummy Discovery
In the wilds of an unfamiliar restaurant menu, my taste buds were on a safari, desperately searching for something appetizing. Then, like a culinary sherpa, someone threw the suggestion of ‘oxtail’ stew into the mix. Now, coming from the land of beef and frosty winters, the ‘stew’ part sounded like a warm embrace for my soul. However, the ‘oxtail’ part raised an eyebrow—or three. Was it a quirky menu name or a secret initiation into the world of exotic eats? The intrigue got the best of me, and, being the fearless last to order, I took a culinary leap of faith and went all-in on the oxtail stew. Let the wild taste adventure begin!
Behold the royal unveiling of the South African Oxtail Stew, a sight that could make even the most regal monarchs weep with joy. As the server approached, bearing a steaming bowl fit for a king, the aroma alone whispered tales of a six-hour symphony in a dutch oven. The oxtail, tender and succulent, dared to defy the laws of gravity as it gracefully fell off the bone. The rich gravy, a masterpiece in its own right, pooled in decadent anticipation, just begging to be sopped up by a thick slice of buttered bread. It wasn’t just a meal; it was a coronation of flavors, a regal feast that declared, “Bow before the magnificence of South African Oxtail Stew!”
The Oxtail Shopping Saga
To me, cooking is not just a daily chore; it’s my personal masterpiece in the chaotic gallery of life, involving all five senses and a hint of culinary wizardry. I fancy myself a cooking connoisseur, armed with a degree in restaurant management and battle-tested in a 4-star restaurant. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach—old-school advice I’ve taken as gospel.
Now, there I was, stumbling upon a dish so sumptuous it whispered sweet promises of culinary glory. I decided to embark on a flavor-filled quest, attempting to recreate this South African marvel at home. Picture this: me, kitchen warrior extraordinaire, wielding spatulas like a wizard’s wand, ready to surprise Mr. P with a dish that would make his taste buds do the happy dance.
Oxtail used to be an ingredient that was frowned upon being the tail of the ox. In the somewhat gloomy annals of American history, particularly during the inception of the slave trade, soul food emerged as a culinary tradition. In this sorrowful chapter, while the choicest cuts of meat were often reserved for those in power, offal, including oxtails, became the staple fare for the enslaved population. It’s a somber reminder of the stark disparities in access to food during a troubling period in our nation’s past. You will find a South African oxtail stew recipe together with a fetcook/vetkoek recipe in almost every household these days.
Legend has it, and by “some” we mean history’s best guessers, that oxtail soup burst onto the scene in seventeenth-century Spitalfields, London. The culinary masterminds behind this creation were supposedly French Huguenot and Flemish immigrants, crafting a delectable concoction from the tails of animals. Now, bear in mind that the sources on this are as elusive as a cat trying to catch its own tail.
Fast forward to today, and oxtail soup has more variations than a Shakespearean play. You’ve got the Korean version, the Chinese rendition, and even a fried/barbecued oxtail soup hybrid doing a culinary tango in Indonesia (where they fondly call it sop buntut). In the American South, there’s a version with roots dating back to pre-revolutionary war days, giving a whole new meaning to “history on a plate.”
Meanwhile, across the pond in the UK, they’ve been slurping up a thick, rich, gravy-like oxtail soup since the 18th century. And let’s not forget the Creole twist – tomatoes, oxtails, potatoes, green beans, corn, mirepoix, garlic, herbs, and spices, all joining forces to create a symphony of flavors in a pot. It’s a global oxtail soup extravaganza, and the tails of animals have never been more cosmopolitan! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxtail_soup
It is also one of those rare dishes that bring people together. Normally it is made outdoors in a 3 legged cast iron pot on fire (I will still do that recipe in the near future). But for this version, I chose to make it in a Dutch oven on the stove.
Ah, the humble oxtail, once the underdog of meats, considered “throwaway” and practically free for the asking. How the tables have turned! Now, it struts around the culinary stage with a price tag that could make your wallet do a double-take, reaching several dollars a pound. And no, that’s not a typo – it’s not $106.71 (cue collective gasp 😵), but a more wallet-friendly R106.71, roughly translating to about $6.00 USD, for a generous 1.3 kilograms (or 2.87 pounds). Who knew oxtails would go from “free for the asking” to “culinary royalty” in the price department? Long live the oxtail revolution! 🍲💸
Now, I must confess, I’m not one to stick to a recipe like it’s a sacred scroll. My culinary philosophy has always been more of a “throw things in a pot and see what happens” vibe. But lo and behold, in the vast landscape of my kitchen experimentation, I stumbled upon a recipe. And not just any recipe – it was like finding the culinary Holy Grail, the blueprint for my next great culinary adventure. Brace yourselves, taste buds; we’re about to embark on a journey that may or may not involve a dash of chaos and a sprinkle of rebellion against measuring spoons! 🥄✨
Buckle up, folks! The kitchen has transformed into a culinary battlefield, a glorious symphony of chaos where flour took flight, spices decided to stage a rebellion, and measuring cups made a break for it. We’re plunging headfirst into the messy kitchen extravaganza, the very realm where the real culinary magic unfolds. Aprons securely fastened, spatulas poised for action, and let the wild and wonderful culinary chaos begin! 🍳🌪️
Embarking on my South African oxtail stew adventure, I stumbled upon a promising base recipe at https://www.thenomadiccook.com/south-african-oxtail-stew. Yet, my taste buds were yearning for a richer sauce, a touch of luxury, so I set sail into the vast seas of the internet.
Enter the braised osso buco recipe at https://veenaazmanov.com/braised-osso-buco-recipe/, a treasure trove of flavors containing garlic, sugar, balsamic vinegar, and more. It sounded like the missing piece of the culinary puzzle I’d been searching for. Just reading through the ingredients had my mouth watering in anticipation. The kitchen was about to become a flavor battlefield, and my taste buds were ready for the feast! 🍷✨
Ah, the melodious sizzle of meat hitting the hot pan – the kitchen symphony had officially begun. As the aroma of home wafted through the air, a culinary overture was taking shape. Now, listen up, because here’s a nugget of wisdom: never, and I mean never, just toss raw meat into the broth and expect it to work some magical stew alchemy.
And when it comes to browning, oh, we don’t mess around. Forget lightly browning; we’re talking about a full-on sear. This isn’t your grandma’s Sunday stroll; it’s a beef stew with attitude. Searing the meat isn’t just a step; it’s the epicenter of flavor creation. It’s where the stew dons its flavor superhero cape and starts building a legacy of deep, rich deliciousness. So, my fellow culinary adventurers, buckle up – we’re on the express train to Flavor Town, and searing is our one-way ticket! 🔥🍲
After approximately 20 minutes of kitchen theatrics involving searing, a bit of dramatic deglazing, and liberally adding enough wine to ensure the meat is thoroughly in the spirit—one for the stew and, of course, one for the illustrious chef (that’s me, by the way)—my culinary masterpiece was officially in the books.
Now, here’s a nugget of wisdom hotter than the pot itself: the key to an oxtail that’s more succulent than a plot twist in a telenovela is heat control. We’re not talking medium or high here; we’re talking about setting that pot’s dial to the lowest heat possible. It should be so low that, when you press your ear against the pot, you hear a gentle bubble symphony. And, if you’re lucky, a puff of steam escapes every now and then, wafting an aroma so divine it has the family prowling the kitchen like a pack of hungry wolves. It’s the kind of scent that says, “Dinner is coming, and it’s going to be legendary!” 🍲🔥
Six hours later, the intoxicating perfume of slow-cooked perfection had choreographed a symphony that waltzed through every nook and cranny of the house, serenading the very air with its savory notes. As we settled into our seats to indulge in the spoils of my culinary odyssey, the tableau before us resembled nothing short of culinary poetry—a magnificent embodiment of patience and kitchen wizardry…at least, that’s how I saw it in my kitchen-centric dreams. 🍲🎶
There, on the table, lay the crowning achievement of my efforts—a dinner so wonderful it could make a food critic weep with joy. Mr. P and I, with eager anticipation, embarked on a flavor odyssey as we dived into the oxtail stew that had worked its magic. That evening wasn’t just about dinner; it was a symphony of succulence, a feast fit for kings—or, at the very least, a very fortunate couple and one immensely satisfied chef! 🍷🍴
I sincerely hope you take the plunge into this South African delight, especially on a chilly winter’s day. Your taste buds are in for a treat, and I’d be absolutely thrilled to hear all about your experience with this culinary masterpiece. So, whip out those pots and pans, dive into the kitchen adventure, and let the warmth of this cozy dish envelop you. Sending heaps of warm and cozy kitchen love your way! 🍲💖