I have never before made oxtail stew. Shocking really. I tend to buy shin of beef for a stew but I spotted two lovely pieces of oxtail in the butchers on saturday and thought it was about time I tried it. I have always thought that oxtail was a cheap cut, but the butcher says that it is comparatively expensive as it costs about the same price as shin but of course has more waste with the bone. It is also very popular this time of year and the cow only has one tail. So apparently it’s not the cheap option. However, bones give better flavour and this stew was tasty. It was quite a lot more work than a shin stew though, as the oxtail gives a great deal of fat, almost a mugful in this case. So you need to make it the day before, chill it, then scrape off the top layer of fat that will have solidified on the surface. I then chose to take the meat off the bone before reheating to make it easier to eat at the table. I like to eat a stew with a spoon.
Britain is having a miserable weather week, rain and dull skies so stew is a popular comfort food. This week I read about Wendy’s beef cheek stew, which will be next on my list to try I think.
You probably do need to have a slow cooker or an Aga to make this stew as it needs about 8 hours simmering away and this may be costly in a normal oven.
This is a general guide, put more or less in as you feel and you could add potatoes or pulses to make it even more substantial.
1kg of oxtail, separated into pieces (they can come tied in a bundle)
2 onions, sliced
5 sticks of celery, sliced
4 carrots, sliced
50g (2oz) flour
50ml madeira or sherry
900 ml (1½ pints) of good beef stock
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried mixed herbs, or a bundle of fresh herbs if you have them to make a bouquet garni
salt and pepper
Brown the meat well in a large casserole dish that is suitable for the hob and the oven, otherwise do the browning and cooking in a frying pan and then transfer it all to a casserole dish that is suitable for the oven or into a slow cooker. It is unlikely that you will need oil as the oxtail will release plenty of its own fat. Remove the meat to a plate. Add the vegetables to the pan and cook until the onions are translucent and the carrot and celery are tender. Add the flour and stir well and cook for a minute or so. Add the madeira or sherry and mix well and then gradually add the stock, stirring to make sure the flour is well combined into the gravy. Add the meat back into the casserole dish, with any juices that may have gathered on the plate. Add the herbs and season generously. Bring to a gentle simmer and then place in a low oven (the simmering oven of the Aga) or into a slow cooker for about eight hours. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before placing in the fridge overnight. Skim off all the solidified fat and, if you wish, remove the meat from the bones. Reheat the stew at a gentle pace until piping hot. Serve in large warmed bowls with lots of bread.