I love my local butcher. I went in for some beef for a Vietnamese salad, but noticed while I was there some lovely fresh looking oxtail. I have a general policy of buying things like this, that you don’t see all the time, whenever I have the chance, so I had him parcel me up several meaty chunks of tail. He asked if I’d been to The Chili Pickle restaurant – I have, of course, and blogged about it to boot – and said they do a great oxtail madras and I might consider an Indian approach to my oxtail. Brilliant!

As luck would have it, I found The Chili Pickle’s oxtail madras recipe when I was poking around for inspiration, or at least some version of it. It looks amazing but a bit cheffy. There’s not really a world in which I’m going to braise meat for hours and then strain the liquid, only to start again making a whole new sauce. I mean maybe, for company, but not on a weeknight. The whole fecking point of a braise is that you can go away and forget about it and then, magically, there’s sticky delicious meat and a sauce. Also, given that I couldn’t start cooking till after work, we’d have been eating at midnight if the end of the braise was just the starting point of a whole new cooking phase. So in the interests of Mr Lemur’s stomach, I decided to make a simpler take on the oxtail madras. I’m not sure that it still qualifies as a madras after my tinkering so I’m just going to call it an oxtail curry.

Oxtail Curry

  • 4 large pieces of oxtail, or 8 smaller ones
  • large chunk of ginger
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 cardamom seeds
  • 3 inches cinnamon
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1-2 tsp chili powder to taste
  • 1 tsp fenugreek (methi) powder
  • 5-10 dried red chilies to taste
  • 1 tin of tomatoes (or chopped fresh tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • a dollop of coconut cream

First, brown the meat well in a heavy-bottomed pot in a good amount of oil. Set it aside. In the same pot, sauté the onions well until they are just starting to go brown at some edges. Add the ginger and garlic and fry another minute or so. Add the spices, making sure the heat is not too high as you don’t want them to burn. Stir well for another minute and then add the tomatoes, vinegar and a cup of water. Put the oxtail back in the pot – the water should almost cover the meat. If not, add more water. Season generously with salt and black pepper.

Bring to the boil and skim off any impurities on the surface, then place in the oven, at gas mark 3 / 170C / 325F for about three hours, turning the meat occasionally. When the meat is soft and coming off the bone, stir in the garam masala and coconut cream and adjust seasoning.

Serves 4

Adapted from The Chilli Pickle’s Oxtail madras recipe.