Another Tale of the Ox

Oxtail Soup

Oxtail beginning to simmer.
The first time I made oxtail soup in the interests of this blog was November 2010. On this occasion I used a recipe from Floyd on Britain and Ireland, which was first published in 1988. Our copy is signed by Keith Floyd himself. I met him that year at the book launch on Dawson Street. In my innocence I recommended a restaurant in Kinsale to him, ignorant of the fact that he was a partner in the business! Looking at the photo of Keith and his red braces on the cover of the book, you'll be transported back to the 1980s!

His recipe for oxtail soup lists butter, carrots, onion, turnips, brown stock, a shin bone, fine sago, dry mustard and sherry among the ingredients. Turnips seem to go into hiding when I'm looking for them so I substituted swede turnip. I have concluded the main reason for using white turnips is that they have a weaker taste than swedes. As for sago, where would I find sago? The only time I ever ate sago was at school in England: tapioca and sago milk puddings, affectionately known as frog spawn!

Oxtail soup - just about ready.
The oxtail arrived vacuum-packed in plastic. Oh, how I miss seeing tails hanging up in butchers' shops! I had to head off to a local butcher for a shin bone. We chatted about ox kidney: not much call for it these days but there's a recipe for kidney soup in this book. The butcher told me how younger people won't eat offal, not even the pieces I thought of as quite common in my youth. Our conversation meandered around cooking, the lack of cooking skills (he told me about a woman who recently asked him how to roast a chicken) and the ignorance of ingredients. Eventually I asked him for a shin bone for my soup!

Back at home I chopped the vegetables ready for frying with the oxtail and shin bone. Next I added the stock and plain water and left the lot simmering for over three hours. I then removed the meat from the bones and shredded it. The recipe doesn't say to return the meat to the broth, but I did so nevertheless. I also added the pearl barley which I had substituted for the fine sago (I'd soaked it just in case it didn't soften). Having reheated the mixture, I seasoned it and poured in the sherry and dished up for the spouse and younger offspring who were watching the end of a rugby match. Their verdict: very good. The older offspring finished off the remainder today and gave another favourable review.

Telling the Bees

It's surprising what you come across when browsing. In a magazine that publishes book reviews by amateur reviewers I came across a review of a book called Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh. When I searched on line for that Telling the Bees I came across a poem with the same title by John Greenleaf Whittier which first appeared in 1858. I also came across this blog about having to tell bees when their keeper dies. And there's a band called Telling the Bees!

Book Buzz

This month I am reading A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman. A lovely, lovely book in many respects. One aspect that I am enjoying is the shortness of the self-contained sub-sections - this is important to someone who can read only briefly before dropping off to sleep. Apart from that I am revelling in the language, the lusciousness of the descriptions and the author's unembarrassed self-indulgence. To date I have finished the section on smell. I realised how few words we have to describe smell, particularly complex smells. We tend to describe smells, fragrances, odours and perfumes by comparing them to other smells or else we say that particular smells remind us of certain events, people, etc. One of my favourite smells is the aroma of an open bag of hot chips, well salted and vinegared, as you exit a chipper on a cold night. But back to the book.

Of course there are lots of bee and honey references in A Natural History of the Senses. Let's go!

From The Shape of Smell: "For centuries, people tormented and sometimes slaughtered animals to obtain four glandular secretions: ambergris ..., castoreum ..., civet (a honeylike secretion from the genital area of the nocturnal, carnivorous Ethiopian cat), and musk."

From Roses: "The most popular hybrid tea [rose] in the world is 'Peace', a stunning multicoloured pastel with sunset hues ... [that] smells like sugared leather dipped in honey."

From An Offering to the Gods: "Some orchids mimic the reproductive parts of a female bee or beetle in order to trick the male into trying to copulate with it, so it will become dusted with pollen."

From Cleopatra's Heirs: "[Cleopatra] was the quintessential devotee of perfume. She anointed her hands with kyphi ...; she scented her feet with aegyptium, a lotion of almond oil, honey, cinnamon, orange blossoms, and henna."


Until next time.



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