There IS life after Easter

After an incredibly busy Easter, and the almost inevitable lurgy aftermath, the kitchen is getting back on track.

Celebrating tonight with venison sausages in onion and cherry gravy and steamed cauliflower. Although I could cheerfully have just had the other vegetable dish – celery braised with shallots and garlic in chicken stock, finished with fino sherry and creme fraiche, thickened with ground almonds.

Like a Georgian celery and almond soup, before you puree it.

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Chinese Braised Oxtail

We liked the lamb shank braise, and I was reading Nigel Slater the other day, and he suggested oxtail. And I remembered I'd seen some excellent fresh oxtail in Waitrose, so I went and bought some. Stupidly cheap, half the price of braising steak and not that much bone. Nigel had a recipe variation on the standard red wine braise, which had a Chinese theme, with ginger and star anise. I like star anise with carrots, Dad does them like that for special dinners. I was most of the way through preparing this when I realised it's also a variant on the beef stew with clementine and ginger that we had before Christmas. I didn't follow the Nigel recipe, which involved flouring the oxtail and included onions. I just assembled in a casserole dish:

4 pieces of oxtail (weighed about 1.3 kgs)
3 capfuls Winter Pimms (the orange brandy one)
10 slices of peeled ginger, each about the size of a 10p / quarter
3 cloves garlic, chopped in half
4 medium carrots, in wedges, cut on the diagonal
3 sticks trimmed celery, ditto
3 tablespoons low salt soy sauce
2 whole star anise
A few grindings of black pepper

I brought it up to hot but not necessarily boiling, covered and bunged it in the oven at Gas Mark 3, it's had three hours so far and will get about another one. Every so often, I took it out, turned the oxtail over, and submerged the veggies more in the juices. Smells lovely. John has some work to do this evening, as soon as he's ready I'm going to zap some Thai noodles and dish up, probably in time for Coronation Street.

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Celery Stuffing

I meant to make cornbread dressing to go with the Christmas goose, but I didn’t have time to make the cornbread. So I riffed it:

  • 4 slices bacon, cut into small strips
  • some sunflower oil
  • 2 oz butter
  • 1 massive rib green celery, very leafy, chopped
  • 1 big onion, finely chopped
  • 3 slices crumbled stollen (to replace the cornbread sweetness)
  • 6 slices sourdough bread, lightly toasted and cut into rough cubes
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1.5 tsp dried sage
  • About 2/3 pint well-seasoned chicken stock (2 coffee mugs)

Fry the bacon in the oil until brown and crisp. Scoop the bacon out, add the butter to the oil and fry the onion and celery, with the leaves, until soft and the onion is browning at the edges. Take off the heat, add the bacon and the dry ingredients. Stir well, tip into a baking dish. Sprinkle with half the stock, and bake on the bottom of the oven. This had an hour at gas mark 6, under the goose and potatoes. If it starts to toast and dry out too much, add the second mug of stock about half way through.

Great cold, too. It was very green, if the celery wasn’t leafy, or was blanched, I’d be tempted to bung in a bunch of roughly chopped parsley.

Good cold.

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