Curry dishes are hugely popular in Jamaica, thanks to the indentured servants who arrived after emancipation in the early 19th century to make up the labour shortfall once slavery had been abolished. Curry goat and curry chicken are the best-known dishes, but curry oxtail is a close contender. It’s a stunning dish, one that is best started a few days before you intend to eat it.
Stewed oxtail is one of Jamaica’s signature dishes; oxtail cooked with browning, a concentration of burnt sugar, pimento (allspice) and butterbeans, it’s a beautiful dish.
Serves around 6
3 white onions, sliced
5 garlic cloves, crushed
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
1 scotch bonnet pepper
3 tbsp Jamaican curry powder
1½ tbsp all-purpose seasoning
1 tsp ground pimento
300ml coconut milk
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 white potatoes, chopped into 2-inch pieces
2 tbsp coconut oil
- Put the oxtail into a large bowl and mix with the curry powder, all-purpose seasoning, pimento, black pepper and a pinch of salt. Stir to coat the meat. Then add the onions, garlic, spring onion, thyme and scotch bonnet. Stir and leave for 12-24 hours.
- Heat a dutch pot or a heavy-based pan over a medium heat and add 2 tbsp oil.
- Add the oxtail pieces ensuring they can each make contact with the base of the pan. Fry off and turn regularly so all the sides turn a nice brown.
- Then add the onions, garlic, spring onion, thyme, scotch bonnet and any remaining spices at the bottom of the dish.
- Stir regularly and add a splash more oil if needed.
- After 5-8 minutes, once the onion is beginning to colour, top with water so the oxtail pieces are almost entirely covered.
- Stir well, reduce the temperature so it is a gentle but steady bubble, place a lid on it and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the lid, add the coconut milk and stir well, and then add the potatoes, pushing them into the liquid.
- You may need to add more water. Cover again and cook until the meat is soft and easily falls off the bone – it could take another couple of hours.
- Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Spoon as much of the fat off as possible. You can also cool it so the fat hardens making it easier to scrape off.
- Serve with steamed cabbage and rice and peas or plain rice.