Some years ago I acquired a Hungarian cookbook, Hungarian Cuisine: A complete cookery book by József Venesz. Like many of my cookbooks it is second hand, but judging from its appearance, which is more shelf-worn than kitchen-worn, it hasn’t been used much. There is a lovely bit of calligraphy on the fly-leaf, indicating that is was probably a birthday present, so it makes me wonder why the previous owner let it go. Perhaps she decided it was time it went to someone who might use it more?

Whatever the reason, I am glad I acquired it, and now that I have tried one recipe from it, I will definitely be trying more. Here is the recipe, with my comments in square brackets:

Ox-tail with sour cream (Tejfölös ököruszály)

  • 2 kg (4 lb.) ox-tail
  • 150 g (5 oz.) mixed vegetables (carrots, turnips, celeriac)
  • 100 g (4 oz.) lard [my only substitution – I used butter because you can not get lard for love or money around here unless you personally know a butcher (which I do, but he lives on the other end of the country)]
  • A pinch of black pepper
  • A pinch of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 60g (2 1/2 oz.) onions
  • 100 ml (4 fl.oz.) white wine
  • 1/2 lemon (both zest and juice)
  • 300 ml (1/2 pt) sour cream
  • 50 g (1 oz.) flour
  • 30 g (1 oz.) mustard [it doesn‘t say what kind, so I used Dijon as I didn‘t have the dry type. It turned out really good]
  • 20 g (3/4 oz.) sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

If it is whole, wash the ox-tail thoroughly in warm water, and then cold water, pat dry and cut into pieces 2-3 cm (1 – 1 1/2 inch) thick. Salt.

Cut the vegetables into thick slices and coarsely chop the onion. Melt the lard in an oven-proof dish and add the vegetables, onion, pepper, bay leaves and thyme. Add the ox-tail pieces and roast in the oven, stirring from time to time.

When nicely browned, put everything in a saucepan, add the wine, the thinly pared lemon zest [you can grate it if you want to, but it doesn’t really matter, as it will not be served with the finished dish] and a little stock or water. Cover and simmer slowly for 2-3 hours [or however long it takes for the ox-tail meat to become tender]. Add a little water from time to time.

[At this point you will have a richly flavoured stew that could easily be served as it is. The next step will turn it into something delicious].

When the meat is tender, mix together the sour cream and flour into a smooth paste and add to the stew, along with the mustard, sugar and lemon juice. Cook for another 10 minutes. Remove the meat pieces from the stew and put into another saucepan, straining the gravy over the meat. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and serve hot with bread dumplings or macaroni.
[The gravy will be very thick. The butter floated up on top, but I’m guessing that the lard might stay mixed in??].

P.S. The stuff that remains in the strainer is way too tasty not to eat it …

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