oxtail closeup

March 22nd, 2012

Oxtail is literally the tail of a cow – it contains a lot of lean meat, bone marrow and gelatin. When cooked gently in the oven for a few hours, the meat will fall off the bones and produce an unctuous, hearty casserole. It’s one of the most delicious casserole/stew type dishes I’ve ever had.

whole oxtail

A decent sized tail weighs about 2 pounds and a good butcher will chop it up and trim off any excess fat. I recommend cooking this over 2 days at a low heat, until the meat falls off the bone. If this is done in a cast iron casserole in the oven, very little attention is needed and it won’t burn.

Oxtail recipe (serves 6):

1 large oxtail (about 2 lbs) jointed
1 large onion (chopped)
2 sticks of celery (chopped)
2 carrots (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
2 dessertspoons of tomato purée
1 or 2 squirts of anchovy paste (to taste)
3 teaspoons of ground herbs (rosemary, sage and thyme – ground up in a mortar and pestle with coarse sea salt and black peppercorns)
2 bay leaves
1 large pinch of crushed chilli
2 – 3 large spoonfuls of plain flour
a level teaspoon of English mustard powder
1 Kallo beef stock cube
1 bottle of red wine
a splash of red wine vinegar
olive oil for frying

floured tail

Mix up a couple of large spoonfuls of flour with a teaspoon of Colman’s English Mustard Powder. Coat all the pieces of oxtail liberally in the flour, heat up a big splash of olive oil in a large cast iron casserole (you may need to add more oil if the flour soaks it up)

browned tail

and brown the meat all over. Hang on to any leftover flour.

onions and chilli flakes

Remove the browned tail pieces from the pan and fry the chopped onion with a large pinch of crushed chilli flakes.


When the onion goes translucent, stir in the carrots, celery and garlic.

ground herbs

Mix in the ground herbs followed by the beef stock cube.

stirring in the flour

Next stir in any leftover flour and mustard mixture (about 1 large spoonful) – this helps to thicken the casserole as it cooks.

red wine and red wine vinegar

Pour in a whole bottle of red wine, plus a splash of red wine vinegar and allow it to bubble away for a few minute to burn off the alcohol.

bay leaves and purée

Add the tomato purée, an inch of anchovy paste and two bay leaves.

cooking the browned tail in the sauce

Finally, return the tail pieces to the casserole, make sure it is simmering, put the lid on and transfer it to a preheated oven at 125º C.

after 4 hours

There’s not much point in doing a tasting until the oxtail has had at least an hour in the oven and even then it could be hard to tell, so I recommend waiting for about 4 hours before tasting the oxtail properly – at this point you can tell if it needs a bit more purée, anchovy paste, half a stock cube, black pepper, wine vinegar etc. It will probably need a little bit of something according to your personal taste.

I’ve found that like a lot of other slow cooked dishes, oxtail improves with a second day of coking. It does need a long cooking time, in order for the meat to tenderise and fall off the bone – in the meantime all the marrow is released from the inside of the bone and it’s delicious as well as being good for you. So, I start my oxtail off in the evening – give it about 4 hours of cooking and then leave it in the warm, switched off oven overnight.

cold tail

The next day, the oxtail will have cooled down and all the fat will be sitting on top, so it’s very easy to get a spoon and scoop it all off. This improves the flavour as well as your waist line.

fat removed

Put the lid back on the casserole and put it back in the oven at 125º C. This time it’s cold and can go into a cold oven.

another 6 hours

I cook mine for up to another 6 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone. On this second leg of cooking, the taste will be much easier to judge in terms of adjustment. Always season a little bit at a time (no matter what you are adding) – it’s easy to add more but impossible to take out. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little red wine or hot water from the kettle.

tail bones

When the meat starts to come off the bones, I like to remove them, but there is no reason why you can’t serve the oxtail rustic style, with bones, just so long as the meat is literally falling off. You can of course allow the casserole time to cool down, remove the bones and then heat it up later in the evening for supper.

cooked oxtail

Do check the seasoning before serving.

oxtail and mash

I like my oxtail on a mound of mashed potato – celeriac would also be good.

flat ruthie

I had some help at the butcher from Flat Ruthie of Cardboard Me Travels. Ruthie’s staying with me and helped with the shopping – in return, I’m showing her the sights of London. If you look closely, you’ll see my oxtail just to the left of Ruthie, in the background.

About Mad Dog

This entry was posted in Drink, Fish, Food, Meat, Recipes, Shopping and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Oxtail

  1. Pingback: London- Mad Dog Hosts Flat Ruthie- Part One | Cardboard Me Travels

  2. I’ve never had rabo de toro, despite being a very popular dish in Spain … I’ll have to give it a try 🙂
    Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Audrey Evermore says:

    Oh My ! this must be the only time Mad Dog has even thought about waist lines .. he doesnt even know how to spell it ! What !? remove the fat !!!! … call a matador … there must be something wrong with Mad Dog …

    I have been waiting ( waisting!) for this posting … I can honestly say that this is the best tasting meat dish I have ever eaten … it was like eating my own teddy bear … so velvety and creamy and meaty and fatfree… I could live on this forever …and I dont even eat meat . Amazing !!! This dish would convert Krishna himself …

  4. ChgoJohn says:

    This looks soo good, MD! I’d be shopping for ox tail tomorrow if I hadn’t just finished a short rib festival, of sorts. Even so, ox tail is readily available at the smaller, ethnic markets I frequent so there’s no doubt that I’ll be making this dish. How could I not?

  5. Ooh, I´ve been waiting for this dishl And had a good chuckle too at Audrey´s comment 😉 I think we make it pretty much the same apart from your fantastic addition of anchovy paste. That must really add something special and I´ll give it a go next time. And I vote to leaving the bones on…that´s half the fun…eating the last bits off the bones with your fingers! Lucky you had Ruthie on hand to help with the shopping..do we get to see more of her adventures with you or will we have to pop over to her site?

    • Mad Dog says:

      I tend to use anchovy paste in place of salt – it adds saltiness (obviously) and savouriness. You could add a couple of anchovy fillets instead. Apparently anchovies are one of the ingredients in Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce 😉

  6. This recipe looks fabulous! Ox tail is great for stews. I mean what could taste better than bone in meat boiling?

  7. zestybeandog says:

    OMG I love this recipe! I need to make it asap! I love oxtail, I’ve never made it though. I love how you show all the stages in the photos, nice job. Thanks!

  8. Pingback: London Sightseeing with Mad Dog- Part Two | Cardboard Me Travels

  9. Audrey Evermore says:

    I agree with zestybeandog… the way you show all the stages of the cooking procedure is fantastic and essential for people like me who will try something that they have never done before as long as there is the right amount of guidance . You have a way of making it all seem possible , even for beginners . Thank you

  10. quote:
    ‘I’ve found that like a lot of other slow cooked dishes, oxtail improves with a second day of coking.’ sp… x

  11. Amanda says:

    Is this rabo de toro? If so, then I have had oxtail outside of a stew, in Sevilla! So good! Muy buena receta, MD!

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Amanda. It’s my friend Oli’s recipe (which I think he got from his dad), so I imagine it’s pre war English. Interestingly the ingredients for rabo de toro are quite similar. I believe the Romans took rabo de toro to Spain, so maybe they brought it to Britain too… Bullfighting started as Cretan dancing with the bulls (think Theseus and the Minotaur). One of the Roman emperors (possibly Claudius) brought it to the arena in a year when the coffers were empty and lions and tigers were expensive. It evolved into bullfighting, though there are some places in Spain where they still do the dancing and acrobatics, rather than killing 😉

      • Amanda says:

        Very interesting, MD. You’re like a walking encyclopedia. What’s interesting about my journey through cooking is that you really learn a lot about history. Like why is a bahn mi eaten on a baguette? (French colonization in the 1880s) or why is couscous on every French menu? (late 1900s Tunisia colonization). Or indonesian food all over Holland? It’s so cool to learn history through eating.

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  13. Pingback: Carrillada de Ternera (Ox Cheek) | Mad Dog TV Dinners

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