Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ox-tails & Credit

The paper delivery man leaves the Sunday Star-Times on the front door-step. This means I can get it with my grabber. By long usage our Sundays are our days of leisure so I spend more time reading the paper and its columnists, including Steve Braunias.

In today’s paper Steve makes an obvious point about the literary awards. Al Brown won the pictorial non-fiction award for his Go Fish. I really cannot comment about this year’s award but I do recollect my anger a few years ago when Philip Temple’s life of the Wakefields was beaten by a wine book. If ever a book deserved recognition the Temple book did. It represented years of devoted research and was a major contribution to our cultural, economic and political history.

Today’s cooking column has an article about oxtail soup. I used to make it a lot during the winter months when it was my turn to cook. It has a unique flavour. Today’s recipe is close to how I used to make it but it was a moveable feast. Whatever was at hand if reasonable could be added. Some recipes have tomato but I found that flavour tends to distract from the distinctive beef taste. There is a gelatinous thickening of the liquid from the oxtail.

I’m talking of such ingredients as half a used lemon or left-over veggies. Carrot, onion, thyme were essentials. Celery if in season. Other herbs, parsley, bay leaf, coriander seeds, cloves. Garlic, I put in almost everything. A beef-stock cube and water. Salt and pepper of course, like oil to brown the meat. Once we had a few deep frozen peas left in a packet. I added them, considerably sweetening the flavour.

I never bothered to flour the oxtail pieces. But I always boiled it twice. After simmering for some considerable time I take the pieces out, and lift the meat off the bone, cutting it finely. I also made sure the marrow was kept with the meat. I’d put the meat back into the liquid and put it in the fridge for the night. The following day I’d remove the fat – no matter how carefully you try to remove it before the first boil up there’ll always be considerable amounts left. Then re-boil slowly; result, a tasty, nutritional broth most suitable for a chill winter’s day.

Another article to catch my eye was a forthcoming book ‘Crisis’ by Alan Bollard the Governor of the Reserve Bank. It reveals how worried the government was during the recession that one of the big Australian banks with branches in New Zealand could fall over. That could have triggered a chain reaction. That’s why there was bipartisan support for the legislation giving the guarantee that has been used in the South Canterbury Finance state of affairs. For the same reasons Obama propped up the car manufacturing business in the USA. Governments get the blame when things go wrong. We often fail to give them credit when they helped save us from even worse situations.

That’s one of the reasons governments in New Zealand in the 19th century created institutions like State Insurance and Public Trust – it helped keep others in the business honest. The buy-out of the Bank of New Zealand was based on the same justification. The USA rail system may have been developed by private companies. They were given government support. The rebuilding of Christchurch and surrounding areas will require similar provision. Infrastructure needs national support, not just local and private.

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