A traditional classic winter warmer, here updated slightly. An old favourite of Tracey's. Oxtail is sometimes hard to find - try a traditional butcher's shop rather than the supermarket.
Slice an onion and gently fry in two tablespoons of olive oil and half an ounce of butter in a large pan with a very well-fitting lid. Finely chop a rasher of bacon and fry with the onion. Optionally, you can add a sliced carrot and/or a sliced stick of celery to the vegetables as they soften. After a few minutes, add the washed oxtail to the pan and fry until lightly browned on all surfaces.
In a jug, dissolve two beef stock cubes in at least three pints of boiling water. Once oxtail and vegetables are fried up, pour the stock over the meat in the pan, and top up with hot water from the kettle until the liquid just covers the oxtail. Add a couple of dried bayleaves, and a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs.
Bring to the boil stiring continuously, then cover and simmer at the lowest possible heat for at least three hours. The secret of this recipe is long, long slow cooking!
Once simmered for ever (it will seem like it!), remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Strain all the liquid from the pan into a bowl. Separate the meat onto a chopping board and discard the vegetables. With a small knife, separate the meat from the bones, chop into little pieces, return the meat to the pan with the liquid, and discard the bones and any fatty bits.
Bring the soup back to the boil. Mix three heaped teaspoons of cornflour with a little water in a small jug or cup. Optionally, add a fluid ounce (also technically known as a good splash) of ruby port to the soup, then stir in the cornflour. Keep stirring until the soup has thickened slightly, then simmer again for twenty minutes. (Note that the port is optional, but really does add a special taste to this dish. Recommended!)
Just before serving, stir in the juice of half a lemon and some freshly ground black pepper. Serve in deep bowls, or perhaps large mugs, with plenty of crusty bread and butter.