The Cottage Smallholder

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Slow braised oxtail recipe for six hungry people

braised oxtail and dumplingsA few years ago I was in Fred Fitzpatrick’s butcher’s shop and spotted a tray of oxtail. My mum was coming for the weekend and somewhere in the vague backwaters of my mind I connected her with oxtail. So I bought the oxtail and rushed home to ring her and announce that we were cooking something very special for the weekend.

She arrived in a fever of excitement. I couldn’t contain the good news until the meal.
“We’ve made you a wonderful oxtail dish.”
When I saw her back straighten and a certain stiffening of the neck, I realised that the connection was clearly negative.
She glanced at our astonished faces and added bravely
“Never mind darling, I am sure I’ll love it.”

And she did.

We used as our starting point the Braised Oxtail recipe from Gary Rhodes New British Classics. We have experimented and played with the recipe endlessly and now I feel I can genuinely publish it as my own. The key to the success of our dish is the slow cooking. We bought an expensive marmite (a large casserole with lid) in a sale a couple of years ago. This giant saucepan is a boon. It is happy to sit in a slow oven for eight hours or on the hob with a trickle heat, without loosing too much moisture. If you are going to try our overnight cooking method, give your casserole a dummy run when you are at home during the day. Then you can check how your own casserole behaves (about 20% of liquid evaporates from our marmite over 9 hours) before popping it in a slow oven for an overnight cook.

This dish freezes well.

Slow braised oxtail for six hungry people


  • 2 kilos of oxtail
  • 300g of peeled and chopped onions
  • 300g of sliced leeks
  • 400g of peeled and chopped carrots
  • 300g of chopped ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tblsp of good quality rape seed oil (or olive oil at a pinch)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tblsp of sloe and bramley apple jelly /sloe gin/damson gin/splosh of white wine and a tblsp of redcurrant jelly
  • 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar (added at the beginning always gives a gorgeous depth to a slow cooked dish)
  • 1 tsp of Lea and Perrins
  • 2 tblsps of mushroom ketchup
  • At least 2 pints of good strong home made brown stock to cover so everything is just floating rather than just covered (Or 2 pints of stock made with 2 beef stock cube and a tsp of Marigold stock powder)
  • 5 small stalks of fresh thyme


  1. Pour the oil into a large saucepan and fry the tails until brown all over and reserve them in a warm space.
  2. Add the onions, carrots, leeks and garlic to the pot and allow them to soak up the juices as the soften for a few minutws.
  3. Add the stock (see above). Add the seasonings, the sloe and brambly jelly, balsamic vinegar, Lea and Perrins, mushroom ketchup and thyme.
  4. Pop in the tails and stir make sure that they are floating in the stock. Bring everything gentle to simmering point and put some foil under the lid of your casserole to ensure a tight fit. Pop the casserole into a slow oven 110c (90c fan), bottom shelf for 8 – 9 hours.
  5. In the morning drain off the liquid and remove the fat (I put it in the fridge to let the fat harden). Then liquidise the vegetables and stock – this will make a thick sauce. Remove the meat from the tails and mix into the sauce. Serve with carrots and a sprinkle of parsley and either mashed potatoes or dumplings.

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  1. Am going into town today so shall see if I can get an oxtail, truly delicious, sweet, soft, tasty meat with gravy to die for.
    This makes me miss my wee dogs even more, they used to love the oxtail, 2 tiny dogs holding a dinasaur like bone, relishing the meat, gravy and chewing away at the sticky glutinous piece at the end……
    They actually used to cry sing for their supper when we had oxtail, warm freshly cooked chicken, home cooked ham, not that they were spoilt!……
    They deserved to be, they had a ‘poor start’ in life, having been used as breeding machines then turfed out to the kennels where they’d been for 6months prior to my taking them. What a joy they were. That is once they were used to ‘people’, after many a ‘bite’, they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, these turned out to be wonderful companions, full of love of which was returned, I still miss them terribly.
    I am comforted that they had 7 good years as old ladies, languishing in the lap of luxury, just as they so deserved.
    Odelle X

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Rosemary,

    What a shame, Rosemary. Any meat cooked on the bone tastes so much better. This oxtail dish was rich and delicious. I did shred the meat off the bone before serving!

  3. Rosemary

    Lovely dumplings !! I used to cook oxtail when my husband was alive and my sons were at home.But now I share a home with my daughter and son-in-law and grandchildren I couldn’t cook it as although my SIL would love it, my daughter cannot bear ANYTHING ON THE BONE not even chicken drumsticks or spare ribs it’s such a trial,can’t believe she was brought up in the same home as her brothers.

  4. Oh that looks yummy!!!! Can’t ever say I have had oxtail before.

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jan,

    The butcher with his rhythm stick – that’s a very amusing picture!

    What a shame you have gone off oxtail. This recipe is superb but not for the feint hearted.

  6. The last time I bought oxtail, the butcher came out of the cold room singing the latest number 1, “Hit me with your Rhythm Stick”, clutching an erect, frozen, oxtail. I can’t face it any more.

    Richard, I’ll swap you some windfall apples for some lamb. Oh right, that’s what I thought you’d say. 😉

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Toni-Anne,

    There’s nothing like a dumpling or three.

    Thanks for dropping by.

    Hi Amanda,

    Living with an Irishman, I am inspired. Irish food at its best is fabulous. This recipe is worth a whirl. Rich and surprising.

    Hi Richard,

    Lucky you with your own lamb.

    My aunt did a swap, a lamb or two for free grazing. I ate her bounty for four years after she died. Still a melt in the mouth favour that I can’t forget.

  8. Mmmmmmm. Almost makes me wish I had cattle rather than sheep……then again slow braised shoulder/neck of lamb has the same sort of ‘falling apart’ texture and deep flavour. I reckon the ‘cheap’ cuts have the best flavour if cooked slowly.

    Just need to get my stock lambs to the abbatoir before November.

  9. That looks truly good! I love food like that.

  10. Toni-anne

    Oh, just look at those dumplings. I am now truly hungry and all I have with me is a small handful of almonds…

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