My French oxtail soup
Here we have a culinary and national identity conundrum. Let’s start by saying that oxtail soup is a hearty winter dish using relatively cheap ingredients. Personally, I always associate oxtail soup with England, so my French version replaced the porto with a Banyuls and added some root vegetables that do not enter in the original recipe. But what is the original recipe?
Apparently, it was after the French revolution that people started to use the less common parts of slaughtered animals for food and that is when they started to boil oxtails. Later, a French chef in London, Alexis Soyer, made a recipe to both use leftovers and help alleviate hunger like in Ireland at the time. So my English oxtail soup was French from the start. The German Ochsenschwanzsuppe uses more herbs and sherry for a clarified version or flour and pureed vegetables with Madeira for a thicker soup. The Dutch variation is close to the German one.
I used a kilo of oxtail. I first browned it in butter and then removed the meat to the side and put two sliced onions and a sliced leek in the fat that I stirred until brown. I put the oxtail back an added herbs like thyme, a bay leave, salt and poured in two glasses of Banyuls. Then I added 1.5 litres of water. This I brought to the simmer and cooked for two hours.
Meanwhile I had sliced up a celery root, a Swedish turnip and a golden turnip and added them to the broth. I also added some left over sweet potato and half a fennel bulb. I pressed two cloves of garlic.
When the meat was cooked, I took out the tail pieces and let them cool down so that I could take the meat off the bones. I used a hand whisk to mix the vegetable broth – you can use an electric whisk if you want a creamy soup. I added a tin of tomato puree, tasted for salt and pepper and returned the meat. Then I let it stand overnight.
The following day, I reheated the soup, tasted again and added some spicy pepper.