Scottish Oxtail Stew

24 Oct
(serves 6)
The tail is one of the best parts of a cow for stewing. It is loaded with gelatin and its meat gets softer the longer you cook it. My particular version of oxtail stew uses barley as one of its ingredients, and contains no tomatoes or wine, hence my choice of a Scotch prefix.  The barley results in a very hearty stew, perfect for cold weather. Its a meal in itself, with no need for additional stapels or vegetarian side dishes. 
  1. Oxtail (1.5kg)
  2. Large Carrots (2)
  3. Onions (2)
  4. Potatoes (2) 
  5. Mushrooms (250g)
  6. Small Cabbage (1/2)
  7. Pearl Barley(1/3 cup)
  8. Black-eyed Beans (1/2 cup)
  9. Tarragon
  10. Oregano
  11. Bay Leaves
  12. Oxo Beef Cubes (3)
  13. Campbell’s Oxtail Soup (1 can)
  14. Whisky
  15. Woustershire Sauce 

Preparation – Part I

  1. If there is connective tissue (white stuff) left on the outside of your oxtail, cut some slits parallel to the bone in these areas to expose the meat beneath. Place the oxtail in a deep pot which has 3 times as much internal volume as the meat. Top off the pot with boiling water until the meat is just covered and bring to a boil.
  2. Add the can of oxtail soup, 6 bay leaves, 1T tarragon, 1T oregano and 2 Oxo cubes. Keep on a low simmer, covered, for about 3 hours. 
  3. Dice up half of your carrots, onions, mushrooms and fry them in a large non-stick saucepan with a knob of butter. This portion of the vegetables is meant to disintegrate, so chop them up finely and don’t worry about being tidy. After about fifteen minutes in the pan, add two cups of water with a Oxo cube dissolved in it, 1/3 cup of barley and 1/2 cup of black-eyed beans. Simmer this, again covered, for about an hour.
  4. If either the pot or saucepan starts to get low on water, add some to prevent them from drying up. When they are done, leave them covered with the heat off to settle for a few hours. This is the end of the preparatory stage and should be done several hours ahead of time or even the night before.

Preparation – Part II

  1. Now the final stage. Cut the remaining vegetables into sizes you want to see in the final stew. I normall cut the onion into 8 wedges, the mushrooms into quarters, the cabbage into 2 wedges and the carrots into round discs. The 2 potatoes should be peeled and diced into 1 inch pieces.
  2. Fish out the oxtail into a deep casserole with a bit of the soup, discard the bay leaves and microwave on high, covered for 9 minutes. The microwaving helps melt some of the remaining fat and connective tissue. Before you start and every 3 minutes thereafter, roll the oxtail around to keep them moist.
  3. Throw all the vegetables into the oxtail soup, including the pre-cooked vegetables from the sauce pan, and again bring to a low simmer.
  4. When the oxtail pieces has been microwaved, return them together with any drippings, to the pot. Stir every minute or so, until the new set of vegetables begin to soften. Then you add the final seasoning during the last ten minutes of cooking.
  5. For taste, add 3T sugar, 3T whisky, 3T woustershire sauce and a generous sprinkle of black pepper. Finally add salt incrementally until the sweet taste from the sugar disappears. This varies with each person’s tastes so I won’t suggest an exact amount. 


  • Why are we cooking the vegetables seperately from the oxtail? Because the small bits invariably get trapped under the oxtail and become burnt at the bottom of the pot. This way, you don’t have to watch the pot and keep stirring for several hours.   
  • Why are we cooking the vegetables seperately from each other? If we put all the vegetables in from the beginning, everything will disintegrate into a porridge. This way you get the wholesomeness of long cooked caramelized vegetables, plus some recognizable pieces when you serve.
  • Make sure you use polished pearl barley. The rougher partially polished hull barley is not edible and is meant to be discarded after cooking, or for distilling alcohol.
  • If you don’t have a microwave, then you’ll have to roast the oxtail in the oven – before putting them to boil in the pot. This is the traditional way of doing it but I prefer the microwave method as it is more convenient. Besides, it allows me to use a pot of a more manageable size.
  • The picture shows the entire stew on one plate. This is purely for aesthetics. Normally I’d serve the meat on a plate and the stew seperately in a bowl. If I am in a generous mood, I sometimes even strip the oxtail of meat at the end, which I then mix into the stew.
  • If you prefer your oxtail stewed French style, check out my oxtail braised in red wine recipe.
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Posted by on October 24, 2010 in English, Main Courses, Recipe, Red Meat


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