Tag Archive for: star anise

Crabapple Cheese…with a kick!

October’s Invisible Food Walk was themed around the autumnal joys of apples and pears (the real ones, not the Cockney version) and I was amazed to discover that I could pick both within five minutes walk of my house.

We visited the pear tree in the Loughborough Estate off Angell Road and using a fishing rod with a handy blade attached, honed our skills at cutting through the stems and sending the large green pears downwards, like a fruity version of a fairground game! I’m not sure what variety of pears these are, but they tasted pretty good after being slowly poached in wine and spices as a light autumnal dessert after some goat stew.

Further round the corner in the community herb garden at Angell Town we came across our apples. Beautiful little cherry sized crabapples to be precise. There are three decent sized trees and they were absolutely groaning with fruit. With a bit of concentration and time, I managed to pick 8lbs of the most perfect looking little apples and carried them home with glee, planning to work on the domestic skills I picked up making quince jelly a few weeks ago and make both crabapple jelly and cheese with them.*

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Oxtail stew

Spring is thinking about gracing us with her presence, but in the meantime I’m still craving good hearty food on these shortening nights and a rich meaty oxtail stew is just the ticket.

I had picked up some oxtail at the market a few weeks ago and stashed it in the freezer until needed. I’d offered to cook dinner for a friend last Sunday and as I had plans during the day as well, I thought a simple stew would be a good idea. I lifted the oxtail out to defrost on the Saturday and while deciding what to do with it, I stumbled across Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s recipe for oxtail with star anise in that day’s Guardian. My mind was instantly made up for me!

I have previously only cooked oxtail using Nigella’s recipe for Oxtail with Mackeson and Majoram (page 104-5 How To Eat) and it was fabulous. Therefore I decided to substitute the red wine in Hugh’s recipe for a bottle of Meantime London Stout. Not only do I like the taste, but the cheapest bottle of red wine in my local shop is just over £4 and a bottle of stout is £1.80. Much more budget friendly! I also omitted the orange zest in the recipe because I don’t like the taste of oranges. Everything else was the same.

This was a doddle to make. The oxtail was ready portioned and after dusting it in seasoned flour, it only took a minute or two to brown it off in batches. I then softened two red onions and some whole cloves of garlic in the remaining oil, before adding the meat back in and covering liberally with the stout and some stock (which I made with an Oxo cube. I’m not ashamed you know) and adding in the fabulous aromatics in the form of a handful of whole star anise, a pinch of mace, a cinnamon stick and a serious grinding of black pepper.

Stout n'stock...

I left the meat to simmer away for about 3 and a half hours. I didn’t add any more liquid, preferring to let it reduce and thicken to a rich slightly jellied finish. I did skim as much fat off the surface as I could while the rice to accompany this was cooking. I served this spooned generous over plain boiled rice and it was sensational. Rich, meaty and unctuous, it felt like sheer luxury in a dish. The meat peeled away from the bone with a spoon and just melted in the mouth. I forgot to add the chocolate and I’m glad I did as I think it would have been too rich with it. This was perfect as it was!

Meat heaven...

In fact this was so good, I forgot to photograph it before eating it for dinner. The amazing aroma meant I couldn’t contain myself. This picture is the next day’s leftovers in all their glossy gorgeousness!