We love Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s soup philosophy: ‘We invented fire. We roasted meats. We made pots. We cooked soup. That’s the story of culinary evolution in a nutshell. It hasn’t got much further, really, bar the odd soufflé, and why should it? For the apex of culinary achievement, you really need look no further than a top-notch soup.’
His recipe for oxtail soup serves eight and is best made a day in advance so the fatty layer can be removed before eating.
Warm the butter in a large saucepan and brown the oxtail pieces, in batches if necessary, until browned on all sides. Remove from the pan, set aside and sweat the vegetables in the meat juices for five minutes.
Return the meat to the pan, along with the bouquet garni, peppercorns, wine and one and a half to two litres of water. Season, bring to the boil and simmer, covered, until the meat is very tender.
Strain the liquid into a bowl, cool and refrigerate. Discard the veg, peppercorns and bouquet garni. Pull the meat from the bones, discarding any skin and fat. Place in a bowl, season and refrigerate.
Next day, remove the solid layer of fat that will have formed on the top of the stock, pour the stock into a pan, add the meat and bring just to a simmer. Adjust the seasoning to taste, add the sherry and simmer very gently for five minutes.
Serve in warmed bowls, scattered with parsley.