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Oxtail With Milk Stout and Marjoram

by . Featured in HOW TO EAT
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Introduction

There is something about the tender viscosity and deep, rich flavour of slow-cooked oxtail that makes it, for me, the dream stew. I know its fattiness is not for everyone, but I love the way it feels as if I’ve put on beef lip gloss after eating a big bowl or two of it. And talking of fat, I favour beef dripping to cook it in, but if you need to use oil, nothing will go wrong.

I should add that the cooking times below can be regarded as a minimum. Last time I made this, after I had reheated it, I had to (for a reason too boring to go into) leave it in the oven for a further four hours (turned down to 150°C/130°C fan/300°F) and it was wonderful. And you could happily extend the initial cooking time as well.

Mashed potato is traditional with oxtail stew, and I wouldn’t offer a dissenting voice. But rice (I like basmati) works as well. And I know I’m not supposed to recommend a second reheat (see note), but if at the end I have a little oxtail and more juice left, I pull the meat off the bone, shred it, add orzo pasta and reheat until the pasta is soft, and most of the gleaming chestnut liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with parsley, and eat with a spoon. But I don’t wish to taunt you, as this is so good, you may well have no leftovers to play with anyway.

Make sure you do buy milk stout – not the more widely-known and more bitter regular stout.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

There is something about the tender viscosity and deep, rich flavour of slow-cooked oxtail that makes it, for me, the dream stew. I know its fattiness is not for everyone, but I love the way it feels as if I’ve put on beef lip gloss after eating a big bowl or two of it. And talking of fat, I favour beef dripping to cook it in, but if you need to use oil, nothing will go wrong.

I should add that the cooking times below can be regarded as a minimum. Last time I made this, after I had reheated it, I had to (for a reason too boring to go into) leave it in the oven for a further four hours (turned down to 150°C/130°C fan/300°F) and it was wonderful. And you could happily extend the initial cooking time as well.

Mashed potato is traditional with oxtail stew, and I wouldn’t offer a dissenting voice. But rice (I like basmati) works as well. And I know I’m not supposed to recommend a second reheat (see note), but if at the end I have a little oxtail and more juice left, I pull the meat off the bone, shred it, add orzo pasta and reheat until the pasta is soft, and most of the gleaming chestnut liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with parsley, and eat with a spoon. But I don’t wish to taunt you, as this is so good, you may well have no leftovers to play with anyway.

Make sure you do buy milk stout – not the more widely-known and more bitter regular stout.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Image of Nigella's Oxtail with Milk Stout and Marjoram
Photo by Jonathan Lovekin

Ingredients

Serves: 6

Metric Cups
  • 65 grams fat or oil
  • 4 (approx 600g) onions (finely sliced into half moons)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced or chopped finely)
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 x 15ml tablespoon freshly chopped flatleaf parsley plus more, left in the bunch, for later
  • 65 grams plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground mace
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2½ kilograms oxtail (jointed)
  • 4 (approx 500g) carrots (cut into batons approx 4cm/1½in long)
  • 1 x 400 grams tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 sticks of celery (whole)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 500 millilitres milk stout
  • 500 millilitres beef stock
  • 5½ tablespoons fat or oil
  • 4 (approx 5¼ pounds) onions (finely sliced into half moons)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced or chopped finely)
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped Italian parsley plus more, left in the bunch, for later
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground mace
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 5½ pounds oxtail (jointed)
  • 4 (approx 1¼ pounds) carrots (cut into batons approx 4cm/1½in long)
  • 1 x 14 ounces tin of diced tomatoes
  • 2 stalks of celery (whole)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups cream stout
  • 2 cups beef broth

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C/130°C fan/350°F.
  2. Melt half the fat in a large cast iron casserole / Dutch oven (which comes with a tight-fitting lid) that will take the oxtail in one squeezed-in layer. Fry the onions over a gentle heat until they are translucent (not brown), which will take about 15 minutes. Then add the garlic, marjoram and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley (saving the rest of the bunch for later), stir into the onions for half a minute or so, then remove to a plate or bowl.
  3. Mix the flour with the mustard powder, ground mace, cloves and a teaspoon of fine sea salt and put on a very large plate. Dredge the oxtail in this; as you’ll frying in a couple of batches, just dredge half the oxtail at a time.
  4. Warm the remaining fat in the casserole on medium-high heat and put half the dredged oxtail in the pan to brown the meat well on both sides. Remove the oxtail pieces to a plate or bowl, then do the same with the remaining oxtail. Then add the first batch back into the pan, squeezing well together to try and get into a single layer. Sprinkle over any remaining flour mixture.
  5. Top with the softened, garlicky and marjoram-flecked onions, then add the carrots, tinned tomatoes, celery sticks and bay leaves.
  6. Pour over the stout and stock and let settle. You need the liquid to cover the oxtail etc properly, so add water if necessary. Bring to the boil, then put the lid on and transfer to the oven.
  7. Cook for 4 hours, or until the liquid’s rich and the meat tender. Discard the celery sticks and cool the casserole before putting in the fridge (see note). The next day, remove the fat that has risen to the surface, then reheat, either on a gentle flame on the hob for about 1 hour or at 180°C/160°C fan/350°F for about ¾ hour, until piping hot. By all means give longer if you like, and see headnote.
  8. Sprinkle with freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley on serving.
  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C/130°C fan/350°F.
  2. Melt half the fat in a large cast iron casserole / Dutch oven (which comes with a tight-fitting lid) that will take the oxtail in one squeezed-in layer. Fry the onions over a gentle heat until they are translucent (not brown), which will take about 15 minutes. Then add the garlic, marjoram and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley (saving the rest of the bunch for later), stir into the onions for half a minute or so, then remove to a plate or bowl.
  3. Mix the flour with the mustard powder, ground mace, cloves and a teaspoon of fine sea salt and put on a very large plate. Dredge the oxtail in this; as you’ll frying in a couple of batches, just dredge half the oxtail at a time.
  4. Warm the remaining fat in the casserole on medium-high heat and put half the dredged oxtail in the pan to brown the meat well on both sides. Remove the oxtail pieces to a plate or bowl, then do the same with the remaining oxtail. Then add the first batch back into the pan, squeezing well together to try and get into a single layer. Sprinkle over any remaining flour mixture.
  5. Top with the softened, garlicky and marjoram-flecked onions, then add the carrots, tinned tomatoes, celery sticks and bay leaves.
  6. Pour over the stout and stock and let settle. You need the liquid to cover the oxtail etc properly, so add water if necessary. Bring to the boil, then put the lid on and transfer to the oven.
  7. Cook for 4 hours, or until the liquid’s rich and the meat tender. Discard the celery sticks and cool the casserole before putting in the fridge (see note). The next day, remove the fat that has risen to the surface, then reheat, either on a gentle flame on the hob for about 1 hour or at 180°C/160°C fan/350°F for about ¾ hour, until piping hot. By all means give longer if you like, and see headnote.
  8. Sprinkle with freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley on serving.

Additional Information

NOTE:
If you can't get hold of mustard powder, you can use ¼ teaspoon cayenne instead.

MAKE AHEAD:
Can be made up to 3 days in advance – store in the fridge and reheat as directed in the recipe. It should be cooled and refrigerated as quickly as possible and within 2 hours.

FREEZE:
Can be frozen for up to 3 months in airtight containers. Thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat as directed in the recipe.

NOTE:
If you can't get hold of mustard powder, you can use ¼ teaspoon cayenne instead.

MAKE AHEAD:
Can be made up to 3 days in advance – store in the fridge and reheat as directed in the recipe. It should be cooled and refrigerated as quickly as possible and within 2 hours.

FREEZE:
Can be frozen for up to 3 months in airtight containers. Thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat as directed in the recipe.

Tell us what you think

What 2 Others have said

  • This turned out beautifully! I'm so happy. I live in a small Alaskan town and there is NO milk stout to be found at the moment, so I subbed in half oatmeal stout and half nutbrown ale. I am sure I'm missing that essential milk-stoutness but the resulting stew is so nice that it has earned a place in the remake book for certain. I also wanted to share a hack I just developed- maybe everyone else does this too and I just reinvented the wheel. I've long been frustrated by losing valuable vegetable matter that winds up stuck in the chilled fat as it rises. This time I cut out a piece of parchment to the size of the pot, and poked many, many holes in it with a small knife. I put it on top of the stew and weighted it down with pie weights. In the morning I carefully picked it out (next time I'll cut it so it has tabs) and voila- the fat came off neatly and left everything else behind.

    Posted by SarahEpton on 11th November 2020
  • I've never eaten oxtail, but i do love that beef-fat lip gloss feeling; I grew up with schmaltz, oil, and butter. there's always plenty of lots of different kinds of fats in my kitchen. I'll have to ask Google what milk stout is, though. It sure does sound yummy!

    Posted by hollis517 on 23rd November 2018
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