She heard John’s footsteps coming up the stairs. She was eagerly awaiting his customary visit. John’s words were her only link with the world. If only she could talk, tell him how much his presence and his conversations meant to her. If only she could go down to Alex and kiss him like the son she didn’t have, play with him until they were tired, if only she could remember how to cook so much as a couple of eggs, enjoy any kind of food, if only she could… return to life. She noticed a smell that struck her. A smell that was foreign to this house. John opened the door and stood there with a tray in his hands and a bowlful of ox-tail soup!-Like Water For Chocolate, Laura Esquivel
Like Water For Chocolate, was named after a Mexican phrase, “Como aqua para chocolate’, referring to someone’s emotions who are about to boil over, referring to the process of making Mexican hot chocolate, where the water must boil before chocolate is added.Each chapter throughout the book begins with a recipe, often reflecting the emotions Tita is experiencing or will pour her emotions into. For July, it’s Ox-tail soup, a comfort food and therefore a healing dish brought to Tita by John and Chencha. It’s stated they believe soup can ‘cure any illness, whether physical or mental’, and the nurturing act of bringing soup represents a way to heal Tita.
Variations of oxtail soup are found in a number of cultures across the world: French, Korean, Flemish. Typically I would research to find the best recipe, but because the recipe is woven through the chapter, I’ve simply condensed it below but made some notes and adaptations.Before starting, a cazuela, a clay cooking pot, would have traditionally been used. An alternative would be a dutch oven, as you’ll be able to both brown your meat and cook the soup in the same pot.
Like Water For Chocolate; Ox-Tail Soup
- 2 oxtails
- 1 onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1/4 kilo string beans
- 2 potatoes
- 4 chiles moritas [a lightly smoked chipotle pepper, with some heat but not overwhelming, and with a slight slight fruity flavour]
- Take a knife and cut a cross on the bottom of each tomato.
- Boil some water, then plunge your tomatoes in for 30 seconds, before spooning out and running under cold water. Use your fingers to remove the tomato peel. Chop roughly.
- Chop the onions and the garlic finely.
- Heat up some oil in a bottom of a large pot, and brown the oxtails. Remove oxtails and set on a plate to the side.
- Add the garlic and onions, cooking until clear.
- Add in the potatoes, beans and chopped tomatoes. Add the oxtails back in.
- Cover with water and simmer for 2 hours for tender meat.
- Remove the oxtails, shred the meat from the bone and add the meat back into the pot, before serving.