Something about happy accidents in my kitchen, lends a rich seam of discovery. At Christmas I bought some bergamot, those highly scented citrus fruits, the aromas of which are most commonly found in Earl Grey tea. Not knowing quite what to do with them, I decided to preserve them like lemons. Eight months later the salt has reduced them to a dark, jammy, yellow and I have been using them in all sorts of spiced North African inspired dishes.
This week I cooked oxtail and added the bergamot during cooking. With lemon thyme and red szechuan peppercorns, it made for a sweet and acidic, sticky sauce, ideal to offset the glutinous cooked oxtail. And you can easily do this with lemons too.
For cuts that need long, slow cooking, I have for a long time been a convert to pressure cooking. It cuts the cooking time by two thirds and preserves all the flavours and moisture within the meat. Within an hour you have the equivalent of a three hour slow braise. And the aromas when you open the steel capsule fill your kitchen, tanatalising the tastebuds.
I cut garlic into large chunks and onions into wedges and soften them in oil in the pressure cooker pan with the lid off. Then toss the oxtail in flour, sea salt and the peppercorns and brown them in the same pan. Add the preserved lemons sliced thinly and a bunch of lemon thyme. Pour over a few glasses of white wine. You need to follow the instructions of the pressure cooker, but the general rule is not to have too much liquid, so 5-10cm of liquid was enough for me.
Then it’s easy. You put the lid on and leave it to steam for an hour. Done.