Oxtail Stew with Broad Beans

Here it is: my first recipe published on the blog that features dried beans. Well, technically, I posted a recipe in 2013 for Cow Heel Soup which featured split peas, but I made them optional. If you’re wondering why I incorporated beans into the recipes for my latest book, be sure to check out this post from last week – but long story short, the recipes in The Heritage Cookbook are historically accurate for a reason. The book investigates the link between traditional foods and health, with the underlying idea that we may have specific adaptations to the foods our recent ancestors relied on as staples. So to omit historical ingredients, prepared in traditional ways, undercuts the entire premise of the book. And just maybe, if eaten in a traditional context, some of these foods might not be so bad from time to time.

So yep, beans. We’re going to use fava beans or lima beans, which are nice and meaty. And like with all of the recipes in the book that feature beans, we’re going to soak them overnight, which increases their digestibility and makes them far easier to cook (plus, this is the way they have been traditionally prepared for thousands of years). One interesting note: while they have a similar appearance and taste, they are from two different corners of the world. Fava beans are part of the pea family, from the eastern Mediterranean, and have been cultivated for 8,000 years; lima beans, on the other hand, are a New World bean, discovered in Peru about 4,000 years ago. There’s an easy way to remember the origins of beans: peas, chickpeas, and fava beans are Old World, and everything else is from the Americas. Pretty cool, huh?

Oxtail stews are found all over the world, and were recorded as far back as the Roman times (but definitely eaten before then – it’s just that nobody was writing about them). This dish in particular is modeled after the Caribbean (specifically, Jamaican) version of this dish, developed at a time when slaves had to make do with lesser cuts of meat, like oxtails. This oxtail stew uses a healthy dose of allspice (native to the Americas) for its base flavor, and the meat is coated in a bit of sugar before being browned. This technique caramelizes the stew nicely, and is likely a remnant of sugarcane plantation cookery.

Oxtail Stew with Broad Beans (Gluten-free)

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Moderate

1 cup dried broad (fava) beans or white butter (lima) beans, soaked overnight
4 lbs beef oxtails
8 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt, more to taste
1 tsp black pepper, more to taste
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp raw sugar, organic cane sugar, or coconut palm sugar
2 tbsp coconut oil, olive oil, lard, or bacon grease
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
4 green onions, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp Caribbean hot pepper sauce, more to taste
2 to 3 cups beef stock
2 carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
chopped cilantro to garnish
white rice to serve
fried plantains to serve

1. Place the beans in a large bowl and fill with enough cold water to cover the beans by 3”; soak overnight.  Combine the oxtails, thyme, paprika, salt, pepper, allspice, and sugar; marinate for at least 1 hour, but up to overnight.

2. Warm the oil in a dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat.  Brown the oxtails on each side until dark and crusty, in batches if needed, about 8 minutes, turning the oxtails every couple minutes.  Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the oxtails and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and stir in the onion, bell peppers, tomatoes, green onions, garlic, tomato paste, and hot pepper sauce; simmer until the onions and peppers are very tender and the tomatoes have lost their shape, about 15 minutes, stirring often.

3. Return the oxtails to the dutch oven and add enough beef stock to nearly cover everything.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the oxtails are tender, about 3 hours. Add the carrots about 20 minutes before the oxtails are tender.

4. While the oxtails cook, prepare the beans: drain them and transfer to a saucepan, then fill with enough water to cover the beans by 1”.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the beans are just tender, about 55 minutes, then set aside.

5. Once the oxtails are tender, fish them out using a slotted spoon or tongs and set aside.  Increase the stovetop temperature to medium-high and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half and the sauce takes on a coffee color, about 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and return the oxtails to the pot. Transfer the beans to the pot along with about 2 tbsp of the liquid you simmered them in. Simmer for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to marry.

6. Season with salt and pepper to taste then garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

3 thoughts on “Oxtail Stew with Broad Beans

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s