18 January 2010


Soup. Are you sick of soup yet? Not me!

Before I made this, I’d never had oxtail soup. I KNOW! It’s such a winter classic, so traditional. Maybe that’s why I’d never had it! Be that as it may, when I saw some queues de boeuf in the supermarket, I snatched them right up. When I got home, I wasn’t sure anymore why.

There they were, though, so I decided to go ahead and make oxtail soup. The problem was that I didn’t know how to begin. So I searched all my favorite blogs. Nothing. I googled and found this and this. The problem was that I didn’t know what it was supposed to taste like. From the googled recipes I began to put together an idea of what I should be doing. For another point of view, I turned to James Beard. In my copy of The New James Beard (1981!), there are recipes for not only oxtail soup but also oxtail gratin and oxtail bouillon. Clearly this is something that was much loved in the past. Or maybe it still is, but just not in MY past...

Finally the time for reading was over. It was time to start cooking. Below is the recipe I ended up with -- partly a combination of the common properties of all the recipes I found and partly a function of what I had on hand. It was still snowing outside, and I wasn’t going out. (I’m from the South, remember? I don’t drive in this.)

The recipes all said to cook this 3 or 3 1/2 hours, until the beef was tender and falling off the bone. It took mine almost 5 hours, and by then it was too late for dinner. So I left it to cool in the stockpot overnight and we ate it the next day for lunch. I think if you have a slow cooker this might be just the thing to do in that.

Yeah, Kate, but how did it taste? Well. They say that the muscles that the animal uses the most have the most flavor--the legs and haunches. I think this beast must have practiced standing on his tail. This was veryvery good. It brought back memories of some of the best pot roasts I had as a child--meat meltingly soft, falling in threads; vegetables adding their color and flavor. But it was the broth that made this special. James Beard spoke of it as unctuous. Because that word makes me think of a gigolo, I don’t think I’d use it. I don’t know a better one, though. This broth had a body to it that was remarkable. That, added to the flavor of the beef and the vegetables makes this something I’ll make again.

Oxtail Soup

2 Tablespoons olive oil

500 g / about 1 pound oxtail pieces

Flour to dust meat

Salt and pepper

1 onion

1 bell pepper

3 medium carrots

3 stalks celery

  • Heat the oil in a soup pot.
  • Put about t heaping soup spoons flour in a dish and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Roll the oxtail pieces in the flour and brown in the oil over high heat. You’re not really cooking them, only searing them. Remove from pot and set aside
  • Slice the onion in half, peel it, and slice it thinly. Add to the pot, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the onion starts to brown.
  • Chop the pepper, the celery and the onion roughly and add them to the pot along with the oxtail pieces.
  • Add enough water to cover, bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for until the meat is tender and falling off the bones, skimming the scum that rises to the top. Most recipes say this will take 3 to 3 1/2 hours. It took mine 5 hours. Add water as necessary to keep the meat covered.
  • When the meat is tender, take the pieces out of the soup and let them cool till you can handle them. Strip the meat off the bones, shred it and put it back in the soup. Stir and serve!

Serves 4 if they like it and 10 if they don’t


  • We served this with cornbread. I think it would also be good with boiled potatoes or some good crusty bread and butter.
  • It really needed a little more salt.
  • All the recipes I checked said to skim the scum that rises to the top of the soup. I skimmed all the scum I could (say THAT five times fast)--there wasn’t very much. I think it’s easier if there’s plenty of water in the pot.


lostpastremembered said...

Soup, beautiful soup... how can you ever get tired of it. Also, I have a present for you at my blog, stop on by Kate!

Linda said...

Looks delicious Kate...I never tire of soup...
warming on a cold winter's day!
Stay warm!

Bob said...

Looks great! I've never had oxtail soup either, although I really want to. My girlfriend is squigged out by the thought of eating somethings tail. Why that bothers her but eating somethings leg doesn't, I have no idea. Heh.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

I've never had oxtail or oxtail soup but it looks wonderful and hearty. My mother used to make a delicious beef vegetable soup and yours reminds me of hers. I don't think unctuous is a word I'd use to describe it either ;)

Amanda said...

This looks fantastic, the only time I have had oxtail soup was at a very traditional restaurant in Germany. Your recipe makes me want to try it at home! (And since it's raining in LA, this is a perfect week for soup!

La Table De Nana said...

I don't even know if I have ever had oxtail!!Imagine..I make a lot of beef soups..but I don't think ever the oxtail..Love soup:)

It looks great!

Pam said...

I've got some beef veggie soup in the slow cooker even as I read this! Wish it was oxtail!

Kitchen Butterfly said...

Oh I love oxtail....but I've never had it in a soup. In Nigeria, we make it in a stew (tomato sauce, onions and chillies)....and enjoy it with rice and plantains and lots more. Must try this in a soup!!!

Gelareh @ Orange Truffle said...

Your photos are absolutly beautiful.

Jane said...

Hi Kate,

Add me to the list of readers who have to admit they've never tried oxtail! It's just the sort of thing my hubby would love though, being an extremely adventurous sort when it comes to all kinds of food.

I like thinking of you there in beautiful Belgium eating something as American as cornbread with your soup. :)

I think I've enjoyed making soup more this winter than I ever have. (Culinary school is beginning to make me a braver cook, I figure, and I think that factors in.) This looks like a fine recipe to hold onto.


zurin said...

i love oxtail soup! yours look absolutely perfect.

grace said...

skim the scum. for some reason, that phrase tickles me to death. :)
this sounds like a pretty tasty (and patience-requiring) soup. would that be cilantro on top? if so, all the better.

Juliana said... are absolutely right...oxtail soup is a must during winter :-) I like how you make your soup, since I always make in a tomato base...will definitely try your version...yummie!

Hungry Dog said...

Sounds heavenly! I grew up eating oxtail now and then, sometimes in a soup like this, and sometimes prepared chinese-style. I'm not sure I could get the husband on board with this but I will have to try!

Barbara said...

I could never get tired of soup, Kate! And I don't think I have ever had oxtail soup, either. Love your recipe and forget skimming the scum. I TRY to do it with my barley soup, but it's almost impossible to get it all.

Kim said...

I've never had oxtail soup before, but I want to now!

Junglefrog said...

I also never had oxtail except at a restaurant I believe ages ago, but to be honest that was just a very clear kind of broth. No meat in it whatsoever. Probably they had an oxtail flying through the soup by passing or so... :) it does look gorgeous!

~~louise~~ said...

Are you sure it isn't Soup Month in Belgium? You sure are having such a wonderful time sharing your soup adventures with us.

I haven't made oxtail soup in ages. My kids always had a way of turning their noses up at the thought. Now that I'm getting settled in, it just may be time to give it a go again.

Yours looks so bright and hearty, Kate. Perfect for another gloomy day in PA.

Thank you so much for sharing...

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is an interesting recipe! It does sound like something ... of yore ... but intriguing. I would have to search high and low around here for oxtails; you were lucky!

I also love the dichotomy between the soup and the cornbread.

Stay warm over there in snowy Belgium! =)

The Gypsy Chef said...

Kate, I've never made oxtail soup, and now I want to try it. I love those bits of tender, stringy meat, However I won't tell those pesky teens it's made from oxtails.

I remember my cooking school mantra
"Skim the scum with a skimmer and let it simmer". It was drummed into my head for two years. Ahhhh, seems like yesterday.

The pic is so bright and cheery. Nice shot. Hope it's warming up in Belgium, Thankfully it is here.

Divina Pe said...

I love soup and I will get tired of eating it. Although I have never made oxtail soup yet. But I did you oxtail for a different dish with tomatoes. This is surely a keeper.

Kathy said...

Hi Kate...Loved catching up with you this morning....
My husband was brought up on Ox-tail...has fond memories of how delish and tender it was. but never had it in soup!
Soup sounds the most natural thing to make my opinion.
Having a grandfather with a meat husband remembers all the interesting things his mom would cook...tongue,brains...he'll have to depend on his memory cause that's not getting in my house!
Never tired of soup, could have it everyday...and usually do!
xoxo~Kathy @ Sweet Up-North Mornings...

Dodol & Mochi said...

Sounds like a comfort food in the freezing winter!! You know when I was in northern Minnesota, I had soup more than I've ever had in the rest of my life! Oh, I've gotta try cook with oxtail. Hope I can find it here.


Carolyn Jung said...

I grew up eating oxtail stew and it remains one of my favorite winter dishes. I usually do it the Chinese-way with soy sauce, star anise, Chinese rice wine and ginger. The meat is so beefy, tender, and satisfying.

Ju (The Little Teochew) said...

I'd never get sick of soup. Soup is soul food. And the one you made is absolutely beautiful. The colours! Such a comforting dish.

2 Stews said...

I remember seeing recipes for Oxtail Soup years ago, and thought it sounded like something I couldn't matter what. Well, it sounds good now...unctuous actually! I have a slow cooker, I'll be brave ;-)

The cornbread looks like a perfect companion.

Thanks, Kate.


Jill @ Jillicious Discoveries said...

The days here in Oregon have been overcast and rainy, so this would be a wonderful dinner. :)

WizzyTheStick said...

Firstly, sorry for my absence. something is wrong with my reader and your updates aren't showing up:-(

Secondly, I love, love, love this soup. Stewed oxtail and oxtail soup is a favourite in the Caribbean.

Okay so now I am off to go get caught up on all the your posts which I have missed, stupid google reader:-(

Neo-Homesteading said...

looks great! I saw some the other day and was wondering if I should try them! Yours looks so delicious! I might have to!