Welcome 4719 the lunar year of the Ox! Oxen have been friends in traditional settings providing food and clothing to families from Asia, Africa, Russia, the Caribbean to Hawaii. The Chinese lunar New Year celebration, the week before and after February 12, 2021, usually features hand rolled dumplings, shark fin soups containing dried oysters, scallops and sea cucumber that require weeks of preparation. Here is a simple peasant recipe to welcome the year of a large, placid, helpful ox.

Ox Tail Soup

Ox tail is traditionally used and can be found in butcher shops and is rather expensive being popular in ethnic cooking. The skinned, sectioned pieces of bovine tail from cow or ox (castrated bull) before it is cut up, weighs anywhere from two to four pounds. Oxtail is a good source of protein and iron with one serving providing 30.8 grams and 3.6 milligrams respectively. To get the most benefits of eating oxtail, include a variety of healthy root vegetables in the recipe.

Oxtail tastes like beef, more specifically, like a tender, silky short rib in texture. It is often used on its own to make stock because it’s such a gelatinous, rich meat. In 1700’s London the soup was made by French and Flemish immigrants. The long, slow cooking time and high-fat content, made a cheap cut of meat into a tasty soup meant to economize all parts of the animal. The British recipe is made with onions, carrots, celery, and thyme. The fat scum and impurities can be reduced by parboiling the meat first. It does need a lot of time to simmer because of the fatty meat​, but requires little work.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds oxtail (cut into 1 to 1 1/2-inch chunks and trimmed of excess fat)
  • 1/2 cup and two table spoons of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons beef drippings, tallow or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions (peeled and minced)
  • 2 quarts water, or 6 cups water and 1-pint beef bone broth or bouillon
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons pink Himalayan salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 2 medium carrots (peeled and diced in medium sized pieces)
  • 1 small turnip peeled and diced
  • 1 stalk celery (diced medium size)
  • Optional: 1/3 cup dry sherry,  port wine or whiskey to taste

Parboil the oxtail sections for a moment and discard the boiling water. Dry them completely and dredge them with flour. Heat the beef drippings or oil in a pan, brown the meat on both sides, remove the meat to a paper towel, but keep the oil in the pan.

Sauté the onions until golden and add the flour. Slowly add the water, tomato paste, a bouquet garni of the herbs. Tie all the herbs in a piece of cheese cloth tied with string or wrap them in a piece of celery tied with string. Add back the meat and simmer at low heat for three hours until the oxtail is fork tender. Remove the bouquet garni. Separate the meat from the bone and add the carrots and celery. Cover and simmer for 15 more minutes. Taste test. Garnish with fresh parsley. At this point you can add sherry or whiskey to taste for more flavor.

Seed Crackers

Serve your soup hot with this quick recipe of home made seed crackers. So easy to make you will want them daily instead of bread. Seed crackers can be made with any dried grain, adding lots of different seeds such as chia, kalonji, sunflower, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds or other. If you sprout the seeds first the texture will be softer. But that is not necessary. Rinse the seeds and grain (wheat, barley, oats, amaranth, quinoa or other) to remove dust.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried organic whole grain, seeds and/or nuts
  • salt and spices to taste.
  • Optional: turmeric, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice or other
  • Water to make a thick pancake batter consistency

First in a blender, whip the grains and seeds, salt and spices to make a powder. Gradually add water so that the batter is thick.

Spread the batter no more than about ¼ inch thick on a baking sheet that has been prepared with oil and flour to prevent sticking. A wet runny batter will make a paper thin cracker. A thicker, drier batter will give a thicker, harder cracker.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes until the cracker is golden brown and a knife passes through to show it is dry inside. Allow it to cool and cut the sheet into cracker sized pieces. Store the crackers in an airtight jar after they are completely dry. If they become soggy after a day, keep the crackers in open air to make them crisp.

International cooking is a safe and fun way to travel these days. Make your meals healthy and delicious, become a natural foods expert at Academy of Healing Nutrition, New York, London and online.