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Best of Beef

Oxtail stew with sourdough bread

When selecting the oxtail from the butcher, choose the really thick parts. This recipe is not one to make in a hurry and it is best when made over two days. Once cooked, the longer it is left to settle, the tastier it gets. 

  • Serves 6


  • 6 large Hereford oxtail bones
  • 2 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp mustard powder
  • 2 heaped tbsp beef dripping
  • 2 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig, leaves stripped
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 6 whole cloves
  • Good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1/2 swede, peeled and cut into 3cm batons
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 3cm batons
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 3cm batons
  • 4 tbsp redcurrant jelly
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
  • Sourdough bread or mashed potatoes, to serve


  1. Preheat the over to 180°C (350°F/Gas mark 4).

  2. Place the flour in a large Ziploc bag with the mustard powder and season with salt and pepper. Add the oxtails and close the bag, trapping a little air. Shake the bag until all the pieces of oxtail are evenly coated in the flour mixture, then remove from the bag, shaking off any excess flour.

  3. Heat a large casserole dish big enough to fit all the oxtails with the vegetables that will eventually join them but not so large that, on pouring in the wine, the level has to be bumped up with water to cover the oxtails.

  4. Add the beef dripping to the casserole and brown the oxtails all over in two batches, turning them regularly with a tongs. Carefully wipe out any burnt bits from the bottom of the casserole with some kitchen paper.

  5. Return the oxtails to the casserole with the shallots, celery, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, cloves and nutmeg. Pour over the wine to just cover the oxtails. Bring to a gentle simmer, skimming off any scum that rises and settles on the top.

  6. Put the lid on, and place the casserole in the oven the for 1 1/2 hours, then remove it from the oven. You will notice that a lot of fat has come out of the oxtail and risen to the top. This needs to be removed, and you have two choices. If skimming it when hot, tilt the casserole at an angle and ladle out the fat. Alternatively, leave it to cool down and the fat will become opaque and stiff so it can easily be scraped off.

  7. Once you have removed all of the fat turn the oxtails over and stir in the swede, parsnips and carrots with the redcurrant jelly and tomato puree. Season with salt and pepper. Return the lid, and cook for another 1 1/2 hours at the same oven temperature as before.

  8. Remove the casserole from the oven, tilt it and skim off any excess fat. Remove one piece of the oxtail and check that it is cooked by pulling at a meaty piece with a fork. The meat should come away very easily. If not, return to the oven for another 30 minutes and test it again.

  9. To serve, garnish the oxtail stew with parsley and serve straight to the table with some sourdough bread or a separate bowl of mashed potatoes.