Delia Smith's Winter Collection
MARCH 2 2012

Braised oxtail, another exercise in browning a strange, tough cut of meat before slowly and lovingly braising it for hours and hours in a flavorful (and often alcoholic) liquid. I am becoming very familiar with this technique as I cook my way through the Winter Collection. Admittedly, slow braised meat kills it during a cold, rainy evening. So we are eating it up! And, I do enjoy trying new flavors and stewing cuts such as oxtail, a first for me.

Oxtail is exactly what it sounds like; take the tail from a cow and whack it into 2 inch slices. It's a tough, fatty cut that needs hours of luxuriating in Guinness (or another yummy liquid) until it falls right off the bone (tailbone?). Of course it has to be browned first to attain the richest, meatiest flavor possible. I dutifully brown my tail slices until crisp and golden.

cross section of cow tail

browned and ready for the oven

Next fry a whole mess of onions in the oxtail fat (smells amazing!) before stirring together the oxtail, onions, herbs, portobello mushrooms and Guinness. I missed the fact that I was supposed to be browning everything in a separate pan then adding them to the casserole dish. The point was to deglaze the pan and thicken the braising liquid, then pour that over the beef and veggies. But, I just stirred everything together and it seemed to work out fine. Less dishes to wash that way :)

sauteed onions.. heavenly!

mix of oxtail, onions, beans, mushrooms, herbs doused with Guinness and ready for the oven

Also, past-Day had thoughtfully pre-soaked the beans so they just had to be quickly defrosted and stirred into the pot (thanks, past-Day!). That saved me a bunch of time. But, the whole mess still needed to work it for 3-1/2 hours. Which meant we wouldn't be eating until well after bedtime... good thing we had a late lunch!

braised oxtail, yummmm!

I followed Delia's advice and simply steamed some asparagus to accompany our meal. The oxtail is so rich, anything more would be overkill. It's good. Meaty. Maybe too meaty... and very earthy from the Guinness and mushrooms. I am unfortunately not terribly hungry so just have a small portion. I am not fully convinced by the oxtail... a tad fatty for my taste. And, it's still on the tail bone so requires some effort to actually eat the meal. But, all in all, warm and tasty.

We confirmed the next day that this oxtail ages very, very well. It could be said that it is even better the second day. So, take the evening to slowly braise a big 'ol pot of oxtail. Then let cool and stick the whole shebang in the fridge. The next day, re-heat slowly and have a most fantastic dinner!

dinner is served!


Serves 6

I am not surprised that oxtail has become rather fashionable in restaurants now because any meat that is cooked near the bone has a special sweetness and succulence. But it's still a very economical dish to prepare at home, and the addition of cannellini beans in this recipe means that they, too, absorb all that lovely flavour. This version is a winner.
3-3½ lb oxtail
440 ml can Guinness
8 oz dried cannellini beans
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 rounded tablespoon plain flour, seasoned
2 large onions, halved and thickly sliced
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 good sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
12 oz open-cap mushrooms
1 pint beef stock (preferably homemade)
12 oz chestnut mushrooms
Salt and freshly milled black pepper


Pre-heat the oven to 300°F.

First the beans need to soak and, to do this, either put them in a large saucepan with 4 pints of cold water and bring them up to the boil for 10 minutes, then turn the heat off and leave them to soak for a minimum of 2 hours, or else soak them in cold water overnight. 

To make the casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan, then wipe the pieces of oxtail with kitchen paper and coat them lightly in seasoned flour and fry in hot fat on all sides until they are a nutty brown colour. 

Then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the pieces of oxtail to a casserole.

Now add the rest of the oil and, as soon as that's hot, add the onions and fry these for about 5 minutes until brown at the edges, before transferring them to join the oxtail in the casserole. Remove the pan from the heat, then drain the beans in a colander. Add them to the casserole along with the garlic cloves, sprigs of thyme and bay leaves and add a good seasoning of black pepper.

Next wipe the open cap mushrooms with some damp kitchen paper, halve them (or quarter them if they are very large), then add these to the casserole as well, tucking them in among the beans and oxtail. Now return the pan to the heat, add any remaining seasoned flour, stir it in to soak up the juices and gradually add the stock and the Guinness, whisking all the time until it reaches simmering point. 

Pour it over the oxtail and the rest of the ingredients, cover with a tight-fitting lid and place in the pre-heated oven for 2½ hours.

Then add the chestnut mushrooms halved and wiped as above, put the lid back on and give the casserole a further hour in the oven. When you next remove it, you will see that some of the fat from the oxtail has bubbled up to the top – spoon this off by skimming a tablespoon across the surface. Then season everything well with salt before serving with a lightly cooked green vegetable.

These recipes are taken from Delia Smith’s Winter Collection.

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