People are laughing at me because I’ve decided I like soup. For years I’ve been very picky about hot bowls of liquid masquerading as meals letting only those involving noodles, wontons or chunky bits into my life. It’s a texture thing; I can’t stand anything that’s devoid of chew or crunch and there’s only so much bread one can justify eating in a single sitting. I say this as a professional-level carb-consumer.

Recently I’ve relaxed the rules a little but still require plenty of vegetables and garnish to keep my soups from the dreaded one-note drab fest. This soup was originally destined to remain a stock but evolved over a couple of days into a rich, meaty number with a warming background heat from the scotch bonnet chillies. People asked for the recipe after watching me make it on Instagram Stories, so here it is.

I quick-pickled some red onions because I thought the soup would want something to cut the richness. It didn’t. The crispy okra is important, however, adding a bright, fresh flavour and of course, another all-important texture. It’s going to be a long winter filled with warming bowlfuls in this house. Yeah I know, you’re all doing it already. Maybe I can tackle another traditionally shunned one-texture food next? Polenta perhaps. Or mashed potato that isn’t 70% butter.

Oxtail Soup with Scotch Bonnet, Potatoes and Crispy Okra Recipe

This soup is a bit of a time investment but you will be rewarded. You need to start it the day before you want to eat it as oxtail is very fatty and leaving it overnight in the fridge means you can easily remove the fat which sets on top. I also used a pressure cooker to cook the oxtail which makes the process faster but you could simmer the stew for 3 hours until tender. This makes around 6 servings.

1 oxtail (around 9 pieces – ask your butcher to chop it for you)
2 litres good beef stock
500ml Guinness
1 carrot, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 large onion, finely diced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
3 scotch bonnet chillies, split but left whole
1 thumb ginger, peeled and sliced thickly
8 stalks thyme
4 waxy potatoes, diced
A good handful chard or other sturdy greens, sliced
Around 10 okra, sliced
Flour and oil, for frying the oxtail

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a frying pan or skillet. Toss the oxtail in seasoned flour and brown it really well in a pan. A lot of fat will come out which you may need to drain off as you fry. Set aside.

Remove all but a tablespoon of the fat from the pan and fry the onion, carrot and celery until soft and starting to colour golden. You want to get them nice and soft as this forms a sweet base for the soup. Add the garlic and fry for a minute or so.

Add the mixture to a pressure cooker along with the beef stock, Guinness, chillies, thyme, ginger and some salt and pepper. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the oxtail is very soft. Cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove from the fridge and take the layer of fat off the top. Pull the meat off the oxtail and add back to the soup. Pick out any pieces you don’t want like thyme stalks and the whole bonnets (you could leave the chillies in if that’s your thing!) then reheat the soup.

Add the diced potatoes. Fry the okra slices in a couple of tablespoons of oil until crisp and drain on kitchen paper. When the potatoes are cooked, add the chard and bring back to the boil. Check seasoning and serve, garnished with the okra.

You can forget your apple sauce, pal – quince and scotch bonnet is where it’s at. I’ve combined them in a hot sauce before but this is more of a quince mush with chilli in it, which is a lot nicer than I’ve just made it sound. It’s a fruit sauce for pork, south London style. The quinces we bought in Peckham’s General Store and the scotch bonnets well, they’re everywhere. Colourful little buggers.

The pork is rubbed with scotch bonnet powder so the crackling and outer meat is spicy too but you could just roast it simply with salt. This reduction in overall heat will also help with the problem of what to serve on the side. Vegetables make sense but the carbs are trickier. The first time I made a sort of spiced pilaf which took things off in another direction entirely and we’ve also had it in baps with mustard and a cabbagey ‘slaw like a spicy hog roast.


Anyway, it’s a very fun thing to do with quinces which are at their fragrant, knobbly best right now. Snap ’em up in the shops or – ideally – steal them from someone’s garden. They may even give them to you! I dunno. Things like that mainly happen outside of London.

Roast Pork Belly with Quince and Scotch Bonnet Sauce Recipe

1.6kg piece pork belly (or thereabouts) cut from the meaty shoulder end, with ribs attached (this is just my preference because then you get the tasty ribs as well)
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons scotch bonnet powder (I buy this in Peckham but you can also buy online)
2 large quinces
1 fresh scotch bonnet chilli
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice (plus a bit extra for prepping the quinces)

If you have the pork belly the day before, pat the skin dry, score it, then leave it uncovered in the fridge overnight to dry out. If not, just pat it dry then score it. Remove any tough white membrane from the top of the rib section.

Preheat the oven to 220C.

Mix the salt and scotch bonnet powder (if using) and rub this all over the pork belly. Place it on a rack in a roasting tray and roast for 20 minutes.

Turn the oven down to 140C and cook for 1 hour 20 minutes, then whack it back up to 220C for a final 20 minutes. This should give you great crackling.

For the quince sauce, peel and stone the quinces, cutting them into segments – you’ll need to pop them in some water with a squeeze of lemon juice in it while you do this, to stop them turning brown.

Cover them with water in a saucepan and add the scotch bonnet (leave it whole) and the honey. Cook until soft, around 1 hour. Remove the chilli and drain. Blend the fruit and stir in the lemon juice. Season with salt. Serve with the pork!