Nigerian oxtail pepper soup
Oxtail is a powerhouse of flavour, it is the tail of a cow, male or female. The bone marrow, the fat, skin and cartilage all combine to produce a stock that is silky, rich, flavour-packed and gelatinous due to its high collagen content. Nigerian oxtail pepper soup is a spicy, herby broth of the oxtail. Ideal for those cold harmattan mornings and evenings especially during the Christmas period.
So on this day, my Renaissance Man called Musa, his friend who is a butcher in the New Artisan Market, to bring his usual clean and cut cow trotters and while at it, he always orders cow head for us. On this day, Musa said the cow head had finished, so spur of the moment, we ordered oxtail. We had sworn off oxtail after buying a particularly fat laden one some years back and agreed that this cannot be good for our health. You know with all the talk about high cholesterol and us wanting to be responsible and health conscious. However, you know what happens to some of these resolutions.
Anyway, long story short, Musa brought the oxtail, and Renaissance Man immediately ordered pepper soup. We wolfed it down and went for seconds, eating and sucking on the succulent meat that nestles in the nooks and crannies of the bones leaving our fingers glistening, sticky and lick-inviting. I pepper-souped the life out of that oxtail, and for the next few days, we made Nigerian oxtail pepper soup, Thank God for Pressure cookers.
Though oxtail is a tough cut of meat, it is expensive and in Nigeria, it is mostly sold skin-on unless you go to the meat section of some departmental stores. In some open markets too, it is not sectioned off into pieces rather it is sold as a complete unit with the nearby canda/kpomo/cow skin.
The Nigerian oxtail pepper soup is made very spicy to balance out the richness of the fat and is served steaming hot. It is mostly eaten with agidi/eko rice, boiled yam or plantain, boiled sweet or Irish potato, or just drunk plain as soup.
To remove excess fat from Nigerian oxtail pepper soup
After boiling the oxtail, and before the full spicing, take off the heat, allow to cool down a bit and put the pot in the freezer to chill. The fat which is all on the surface of the broth will solidify. Break off the solid fat and discard, then continue with your cooking.
A note of warning though, the Nigerian oxtail pepper soup should not be an everyday pepper soup, because oxtail has a very high oil content which is not good for the health. Remove as much fat as you reasonably can especially if you bought a whole unit with the fatty canda/kpomo/cow skin surrounding the tail.
To prepare Nigerian Oxtail Pepper Soup
1.2 kg oxtail 1 medium onion salt 1 1/2-inch root ginger* scotch bonnet (fresh pepper)* 3 seasoning cubes 1 teaspoon ground uziza 1 seed ehuru (calabash nutmeg) 4-5 leaves utazi bitters
*I add my ginger thickly sliced sometimes so that I can remove it if the taste is getting too strong in the pepper soup, same goes for the scotch bonnet which I just cut into 2 and mash up at the end. You can grind them though.
Wash oxtail sections, slice onions, grind uziza and ehuru. Either grind ginger and scotch bonnet or slice thickly.
Put oxtail in a pressure pot, add enough water to cover it. If you don’t have a pressure pot, use a regular pot and throw in about 10 pieces of beans to help shorten the cooking time.
Add onions, salt, root ginger, pepper and 2 seasoning cubes.
Cover and cook till meat is tender, for the pressure cooker it takes about 20-30 minutes, and for 1 1/2 to 2 hours for the pot. Taste and add more salt, seasoning cube and pepper if needed.
Add uziza, ehuru, and utazi. Cook for 10 minutes, taste and take off the heat.
Serve your Nigerian oxtail pepper soup with agidi/eko, rice, boiled yam or plantain, boiled sweet or Irish potato, or just drink plain as soup.
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