3rd June 2010
The End Of The Line?
Campbells Condensed Oxtail Soup
Batchelors Condensed Oxtail Soup
Ah those Campbell soup cans.
The inspiration of artists, the darling of gourmandes and the kindler of fond childhood memories.
Requiescat in pace

As a boy, I spent many weekends, and long summer weeks with a small band of close friends (who I no longer talk to) hiking off into that vast wilderness - The Yorkshire Dales. Armed only with tins of Campbell's Condensed Oxtail Soup, feet-long paper packets of dried spaghetti, fresh mince, onions, garlic, mushrooms, various small plastic film containers (remember those?) filled with dried oregano, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauce, and of course the fresh eggs and bacon for breakfast, we would muscle our enormous rucksacks over hills and dales to comfy camping spots by rivers and streams. And pubs.

Once settled in with our tents up and sleeping bags decompressing we would pump up the solid brass paraffin stoves, break out the giant pasta pan and start boiling the water for our time-honoured Spaghetti Bolognese di Campeggio

I don't know where our traditional family recipe for oxtail-soup-based Spaghetti Bolognese originally came from, I'm not even sure it was from my family (though there is a history of condensed-soup-based cookery), but I can't smell the rich meaty aroma of hot, bubbling condensed oxtail soup without being instantly transported back to those childhood trips.

Imagine my horror, then, at the double body blows of first being denied oxtail soup due to our Gubbermint's hysterical overreaction to the fear of Mad Cow Disease (I don't know if you tried the oxtail-effect soup produced by Campbell during this period but suffice to say - you really can't make a convincing oxtail out of carrots), and then to the sale of Campbell's Soup (UK) label to Batchelors.
A Goddamn cultural icon!

Naturally as soon as I heard the news in 2006 and fearing that I might never get to taste that glorious meaty phlegm again, I stocked up with soup tins as for a nuclear war. Fortunately for my sanity, though, it seems that Batchelor's are still making the same recipe and their new cans are quite acceptable. If not as photogenic.

Fast forward to 2010, and down to my last can of Campbell's original, possibly the last can in the country, I decide to share this priceless hoarded treasure together with its golden childhood memories with my girlfriend on a well-earned camping holiday. This time out in the vast wilderness of the Cairngorms.

Unfortunately for our relationship I happened to notice that the expiration date on the can was 2008, and had to open my big mouth, at which Rachel immediately refused to have anything more to do with it, demanding that a tin of tomatoes be substituted instead.
This despite being perfectly happy to munch her way through a fridge-full of tragically mouldering produce at home, smugly proclaiming how it helps to keep up her immunities.

So I immediately dumped her.
Pretty fair I thought.

I print the recipe here for anyone else who fancies recreating this special experience.
The food that is. Not breaking up with your girlfriend.
You don't need my help with that!
Feeds an army
Spaghetti Bolognese di Campeggio
main meat pasta
2 fist-fulls spaghetti
2lb beef mince
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, finely chopped
2 cans Campbell's Condensed Oxtail Soup (or to taste)
dried oregano
dozen button mushrooms, quartered
Worcestershire Sauce
Tabasco Sauce
First hike out into the Yorkshire Dales carrying ten times the amount of clothing and food that you could possibly require.
Set up camp in a lonely spot near to running water, but within pitch-dark walking distance of a Theakston Pub.

Cover the bottom of a large pan with olive oil and fry the mince until it starts to brown (chopped bacon or chorizo works as a delicious addition also), toss in the minced garlic and crisp it a little, then add the onion.
At this point throw on the dried oregano and fry until the onions turn glassy.
Add quartered mushrooms.

Meanwhile boil a large pot of water for the spaghetti. Dump the spaghetti in the boiling water and cook until just al dente, then strain.

While the spaghetti cooks pour the cans of condensed oxtail soup over the fried mince. and let the sauce gently simmer.
I found a single tin of soup will do for 2lb mince if your stocks are running low.
If you want to be a bit more philistine traditional you could also add tinned tomatoes
It's ready when a layer of luminous orange oil floats greasily over the surface.
Flavour to taste with Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce.

Serve the spaghetti with the sauce poured over.
You won't need grated cheese, but yoghurt is a nice topping.
Wash the dishes*.
Go to the pub.

*There's little to recommend standing in a freezing cold stream desperately scraping at the thick residue of heavy orange fat coating your pans and plates when you've forgotten to bring the washing up liquid, but you would be well-advised to do so.
As delightful as the enticing aroma of hot condensed oxtails can be the evening before, it is a nauseatingly cloying stench to first greet your hangover next morning.

Comments (2)

Newest first Oldest first

  1. A sentiment we all share, Mrs B Williams. If only it was within my power to resurrect the condensed oxtail soup line.

    C'mon Batchelor/Campbell - do us all a favour, listen to your customers, and BRING BACK THE OXTAIL SOUP!

    #2 – 29 August, 2016 at 3:30 pm

  2. Brenda Williams's avatar Brenda Williams

    Just to ask why u have stop making oxtail soup has I used it in my mince and can't seem

    To enjoy mince with out it so please start making it again thank u Mrs B Williams

    #1 – 29 August, 2016 at 9:28 am

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