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Oxtail stew is a traditional Lesothian cuisine dish, but that doesn’t mean that South Africans haven’t fully embraced it, putting their very own South African food twist on it. In South Africa, oxtail can be eaten as a stew or made simply as a meaty main to be paired with a selection of sides. Many years ago, the oxtail was from the tail of an ox, but nowadays, it is the tail of a cow, male or female. The tail is cut into sections to expose juicy marrow in the middle with some meaty segments on the bony portions. The cut is perfect for a hearty stew, and that’s exactly what South African families make with it.

Part of South African tradition is having a stash of truly South African recipes to pass on from generation to generation. Most families will find a hearty oxtail stew recipe in their collection, but we’ve got one for you if you don’t have one in your family collection yet! Even if you’re not a fan of oxtail or haven’t eaten it before, you should try it at least once – or you will never know what you’re missing. The South African recipe for oxtail is very similar to those abroad, with a few uniquely SA twists.

Cooking South African oxtail

Without much further ado and salivating, let’s head straight into our favourite South African oxtail recipe. This recipe serves 6 generous portions.

What you’ll need:

  • 2.5 kg oxtail (cut into chunks)
  • 5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 400 g of carrots (sliced julienne)
  • 400 g celery (sliced julienne)
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, chopped
  • 4 dried bay leaves
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 2 tins of tomato (400 g each)
  • 1 litre of beef stock
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • Salt and pepper

What to do:

Making South African oxtail is fairly simple. Follow the steps below:

  • First, preheat the oven to a balmy 220 degrees Celsius.
  • Then, place 3 tablespoons of oil into a roasting tray and pop the tray into the oven (to heat the oil).
  • When the oil is hot, it’s time to add the oxtail.
  • Coat the oxtail in the oil in the pan and then season it to taste.
  • Place the tray into the oven and cook for around 20 minutes until the outside of the oxtail chunks brown and fat turns golden.
  • In a large saucepan, place the herbs, celery, and carrots along with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil – allow to simmer gently for around 20 minutes. If it seems too dry, add a few tablespoons of water.
  • Remove the oxtail from the oven and set it to one side to cool. Turn down the temperature of the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
  • Now, add the wine, beef stock, tomatoes, flour, cloves, and bay leaves to the herbs, celery and carrots in the saucepan.
  • Place the oxtail and all roasting juices into the saucepan and bring to the boil.
  • Then, return all the saucepan contents to the roasting tray. Cover with a lid and cook for a further 5 hours until the meat is tender and falling from the bone.

Service suggestions for South African oxtail

We all know that dinner is about the main event (the oxtail) but would it really be all that impressive without a few complementary sides? There is nothing mediocre about South African food, and that’s why we have everything with delectable sides and sauces. When serving traditional SA style oxtail, you might want to ensure you have the best possible sides to truly wow your dinner guests (or family members).

 Below are a few sides that pair well with this oxtail recipe.

  • Broccoli and potato mash

This is a beautiful mixture of mashed potatoes and broccoli. First, cook your potatoes as usual by boiling them. Steam and blitz broccoli, and then stir it into the mash. Add a dollop (or three) of fresh cream and mash it. Serve a big scoop of this with your oxtail, and you simply cannot go wrong.

  • Sweet potato and pumpkin surprise

Boil the sweet potato and pumpkin together. Then drain and mash both in the same bowl. Add Kalamata pitted olives and crumble in some feta and fresh chopped herbs.

  • Good old fashioned roast potatoes

Half cook halved potatoes by either steaming or boiling them. Drizzle potatoes with oil and grated garlic and pop them in the oven or in the air fryer to go extra crispy and delicious!

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