Oxtail soup is not something I grew up on. Just as the reaction on my daughters face when she asked what I was cooking yesterday, I’m sure I would give my mom the same look if she said it was oxtail on the menu. That look from Kieana got even worse when I confirmed what oxtail really was and I ended up making them a pizza for dinner. Well… more for me I guess! If you like thick, savory soups and don’t mind waiting as it slowly bubbles away under a gentle heat, you’re in for an absolute treat. This recipe is very similar to a salted pigtail soup my uncle would make on a Monday after a weekend of partying (That man never worked a Monday as far as I know, growing up), but his would have dumplings and/or macaroni and green fig (green banana).
1 1/2 – 2 lbs oxtail – ask your butcher to cut it into 1-2 inch pieces.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 lbs yam
2 medium sweet potatoes
4 eddoes (about 1 lb)
3 medium potatoes
3 sprigs thyme
4 leaves of shado beni or about 4 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon salt (may need more according to your taste)
2 tablespoon tomato paste (concentrated)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
3 cloves of garlic crushed
1 large onion diced
1 large carrot sliced
1 cup split peas (optional)
about 8 cups of water (see note in cooking directions)
1 hot pepper (I used a habanero – use your fav pepper)
1 pack cock soup (I used Grace brand)
1 teaspoon Golden Ray salted butter (optional, but adds a nice punch at the end)
* Feel free to add any other ground provisions (green fig, dasheen,cassava etc) you may like or have, just be sure to use a pot big enough and you’ll need to add a bit more water in cooking.
* For people outside the Caribbean where ground provisions (yam, sweet potato and eddoes) may be hard to source, feel free to use winter root vegetables instead. Like turnips,parsnips, rutabaga etc.
If anyone is unsure about ground provisions or need help knowing how to shop for them or how to peel etc, leave me a comment in the comment section below and I’ll try my best to help you out.
Let’s get cooking….
Start by getting a large pot, add the oil and heat on medium/high heat. Rinse off the cut pieces of oxtail (my butcher cut the piece a bit smaller than I wanted) since they may have a bit of grit left from the band-saw used in cutting. Dry off with a paper towel and ad to the pot. Brown all sides and remember to stir or risk having the pieces of meat stick to the pan. In the mean time, dice you carrots and onions. As the meat is evenly browned on all sides, move them to the side of the pot and add the tomato paste to the middle of the pan, then stir the browned pieces of oxtail to pick up on the tomato paste. This process will help release the natural sugar from the tomato paste, as well as give the soup a nice rich reddish colour.
Now you can start adding the thyme, black pepper, diced onions and garlic and allow to cook for a couple minutes so they too can release their flavours. Turn the heat down to minimum as you do this step. After 3-4 minutes you can add the sliced carrots to the pot as well. Remember to keep stirring.
Quickly go through the dried split peas to ensure there’s nothing foreign in there, wash a couple times with water to remove any grit and add to the pot. You can now add the hot pepper, salt, bay leaf, diced scallion and shado beni (chopped fine) to the pot. Then pour in the 8 cups of water and bring to a boil (high heat). I like leaving the hot pepper whole so I can take it out later. As it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and allow this to slowly simmer for about 1.5 – 2 hrs with the pot covered. Basically until the oxtail is tender and the split peas is cooked to the point where it’s breaking apart. This is what’s going to thicken our soup. Open up your windows and give your neighbors the aroma of the excitement that’s happening on your stove. risk them coming over and asking questions though – nosy ones will try to remain for a bowl or 2.
In the meantime we can peel and cut the provisions (potato,yams, sweet potato and eddoes). If you’re doing this in advance, after peeling and cutting, be sure to put it in a deep bowl and cover with cool water to prevent them from going discolored. I like my ground provisions chunky so you’ll notice that I cut them into fairly large pieces. The eddoes I cut into 2 pieces, so too the sweet potato and potato. The yam I try to cut into the same size as everything else, so they all finish cooking at the same time.
After the braising process (my oxtail was tender after 2 hrs) it’s time to add the the cock soup and ground provisions. Rinse off the ground provisions (after peeling and cutting) and gently place into the pot. This is why we need a large pot. Make sure all the pieces of provisions is totally covered by liquid (you may need to add more water) so they can cook evenly. During this final cooking process, the more you stir the pot, the more thick the soup will get.As the ground provisions will start to break down and the combination of these pieces and the starch, will thicken the soup.
Bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer again and allow to cook for about 25 minutes. Stir occasionally. When you can pierce the largest piece of ground provision with a knife without any resistance, you know they’re fully cooked. The final 5 minutes is when you’d add the Golden ray butter if you have some. Remember to fish out the hot pepper (I kept mine in as I love the heat) and the sprig from the thyme before serving. People outside the Caribbean will probably consider this a heavy stew for sure, but on the islands this is exactly how we like our soup.
Serve piping hot and there’s no need for bread or any fancy topping like the soups you get in the restaurants in North America. Word of warning though… you may find yourself falling asleep minutes after devouring a bowl of this oxtail goodness. My brothers and sisters may know this affliction commonly as “ritis”. I was out for a couple hrs. If you’re looking for another tasty oxtail recipe, be sure to check out my stewed oxtail.
Note: You can precook your ground provisions if you’d like and simply add it to the pot after the oxtails are tender, so your cooking time will be reduced. And you can also use a pressure cooker to braise the (first steps before adding the provisions) and really reduce on cooking time.
Be sure to check out the links to the other soup recipes below and don’t forget to connect with us on facebook by clicking on the image below (there’s already over 1800 of us in the Facebook group). BTW, if you’d like a quick recipe for dumplings to add to this soup, leave me a comment below as I know how much my Caribbean people love off on dumplings.