Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Geeta's Famous Oxtail in Red Masala

If you have not eaten Geeta's oxtail in red masala, then you have missed out on a damn good,  finger licking curry. My family are sworn fans of her version. But since she lives much farther than a stone's throw away, we cannot readily demand a good oxtail curry. This is a rich, thick gravy with meaty browned oxtails, cooked till the meat falls off the bone. This Rodrigues family heirloom recipe has been prepared at numerous dinners, bagged and frozen for airplane travel and has been resurrected to serve seventeen hungry Gonsalves family members one snowy Christmas.

For those of you are squirming at the thought of this particular cut of meat, put aside your misgivings and buy some. Brown oxtails in oil as you would stew meat and then braise the meat in stock or water. I have made them braised in red wine. The meat is the stock ingredient in pho. But I always go back to the Rodrigues recipe.

Red masala was ever present in the fridge, a generous gift from ma-in-law Pam. Bottles of green and red masala, smuggled through Customs, were my go-to masalas for curries. All gone now, I resort to powder masala, put together in a jiffy. The potency and color might lack authenticity, but the ease of preparation belies the quality. Goan spices come alive with this oxtail curry.

Serves 4

2 pounds Oxtails
1/2-1 teaspoon Chile powder 
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric 
1 teaspoon Cumin powder 
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
3-4 teaspoons Paprika
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
1 teaspoon Ginger paste 
3-4 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
3 + 3 tablespoons Canola Oil 
3 large Onions 
6 Garlic cloves
5 Ginger slice
2 medium Tomatoes
1-2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
Fresh Cilantro

Wash and dry oxtails.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a pressure cooker. ALTERNATELY Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven.

Place the oxtails in hot oil in a single layer. Try not to crowd them. The oxtails need to brown evenly on all sides. You might have to do this browning in two batches. Remove browned oxtails to a bowl.

Make red masala by mixing chile powder, turmeric, cumin powder, black pepper, paprika, garlic and ginger pastes in bowl. Stir vinegar in to make a thick paste. Keep aside. 

Chop onions finely. 

Heat remaining oil in the same pressure cooker or Dutch oven.

Add onions to oil and saute till golden brown.

Thinly slice garlic cloves. Add garlic and ginger to onions.

Cut tomatoes into small chunks and add to browned onions. Saute till tomatoes are pulpy. 

Add red masala to onions and saute on a medium flame for 5-8 minutes, stirring constantly.  Do this as the masala gets burnt. 

Return oxtails to pressure cooker and stir well so masala coats oxtails. 

Season with salt.

Add water to meat. There should be enough water to barely cover the meat. Bring curry to a boil. Cover pressure cooker with lid and whistle. Once the pressure cooker whistles, turn flame to the lowest and let the meat cook for 45 minutes. ( See notes below )

ALTERNATELY, cover the Dutch oven with a lid and let meat cook 3-4 hours, checking periodically. Add more water as needed. When done, the meat should fall away from the bones easily.

Once pressure has subsided, open the lid. You will find a lot of watery gravy. To thicken gravy return pan to a high flame and let curry thicken. It should take 20-25 minutes to get a thick gravy. Stir from time to time.

Chop fresh cilantro and scatter over oxtails before serving with crusty bread, roti or rice. 


The pressure cooker I use is an old Prestige model. They now are many modern versions. Please follow the directions of your model. Oxtails need at least 45 minutes in a pressure cooker to be tender. 

Eating oxtails is a messy job. Forks are the genteel way to go, but the best implements are your hands. And teeth. And tongue. This way you can get to all the nooks and crannies. The meat cooks up soft and tender. Red masala gravy turns out to be a good foil for rice. Though she is miles away, we  vicariously enjoy Geet's culinary gifts .

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