The Spanish Oxtail Stew Tale

Last October, a bunch of us MIDRA (men in denial of the reality of ageing) went on a seven day cycling trip to the mountains of Southern Spain, taking in exotic, historic towns including Seville, Ronda and Granada. We also cycled up and down some huge mountains, some of our group conquering the Pico de Veleta, one of the greatest cycling challenges in Europe. The mountain is the third highest peak in Spain, and the highest paved road in Europe. Spain is a beautiful country and well worth the trip if you have the inclination. As in any group of men, there are leaders and followers. On the Spanish food front, our buddy Seamus is a leader. He has spent more time in that part of Spain, than the rest of us. Using his experience of the region, he took charge of some of our restaurant bookings. His thought, to give us some insight into local food traditions. One of the highs of the trip for me was the night we had the Spanish Oxtail Stew.

We were a band of twenty with the usual mix of allergies, food preferences and prejudices. Many of our group are better cyclists than me. But, when it comes to getting to grips with a recipe, I am peerless (peerless in that group of old grumblers anyway). On our second night in Ronda, Seamus booked our party into a private room in a local restaurant. We were served that delicious Oxtail Stew. But, oxtail is oxtail and some of the lads were a little less than impressed with it. I think they were a bit off-put by the thought of eating that part of the animal. It’s not for everybody but, here’s my take on a traditional Spanish Oxtail Stew.

Fantastic colours abound in this Iberian delight.


  • 2 oxtails
  • 8 to 10 slices of smoked Spanish chorizo
  • 800 gms (2 tins) of chopped tomatoes
  • 250 ml of home made beef stock
  • 2 teaspoons of tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon of hot paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of smoked paprila
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 glass of robust red wine (Rioja fits the bill)
  • 3 or 4 ribs of celery
  • 3 or 4 onions
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 or 3 carrots
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of leek flakes (entirely optional)

Slice the chorizo into small pieces and fry it off in the bottom of a large casserole.

I bought this in Spain. It pays to be authentic.

Dice the onions, carrots and celery into small cubes. Slice the garlic. Sweat them down in the chorizo oil in the large casserole dish, adding a little of the beef stock if they get too dry and are in danger of burning. When they are soft, add the wine.

The onions, celery and carrot are the basis of most great stews or soups.

Pack in the oxtail in a single layer on top of the vegetables.

I just about got all the oxtail to fit. Not for the squeamish.

Add the remaining ingredients, stopping only to photograph the beautiful redness of the tomatoes.

Good quality tinned tomatoes make a big difference.

Cover with a tight fitting lid and place it in a 160ºC (320ºF) oven for five and a half to six hours. The oxtail will release a lot of fat. Spoon this off the top before serving with some nice creamy mashed potatoes. The meat will simply fall off the bone. The stew has a fantastic consistency and will warm you through and through.

Don’t forget to have a couple of glasses of the Rioja with this. Perfect pairing.

Seamus would love this stew. The unctuous consistency from the slow cooking is delightful. The layers of flavour are numerous and I look forward to our next cycling adventure where our group gets to eat delicious traditional dishes, whether they like them or not. Gracias Seamus.

The proof of the Spanish style oxtail stew is in the eating….

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Latest comments
  • MIDRA had me cracking up. Your biking adventure sounds glorious, although I fear I would have to drive the trailing vehicle. As for the Spanish Oxtail Stew, you’ve done it again in bringing us another extraordinary recipe. I love all things stew, so this is right up my ally.

  • That looks delicious! I usually cook oxtail twice and in doing so, it’s very easy to remove the fat when it goes cold (after the first cooking) and well worth removing because it can be a bitter. I’m sure you needed hearty food like this after cycling up mountains.

      • I think I’ll stick to 8 miles or so in London most days – cycling up to Muswell Hill is steep enough for me. After a 2000 meter climb I’d want to eat the whole stew!
        I usually give oxtail 4 or so hours in the evening and leave it in the oven cooling down overnight. The next morning the fat is easy to remove with a spoon and then with a few more hours cooking the meat falls off the bone.

          • Definitely!

  • Oxtail is the ultimate winter food, in my opinion. I find it daft to be squeamish about different parts of an animal. They all come from the same creature and they all go to the same place in the end, down my throat. Why is a tail yucky but a thigh not? Or a liver’s fine, but a tongue’s horrible. They’re all delish, and they all deserve to be appreciated. Viva la cola de buey, y que aproveche 🙂

      • Having a father who’s lived in Spain since 1984 does have its advantages… My Spanish isn’t fluent but strangely, it does seem to get better where food is concerned!

  • Conor switched me on to sous vide beef cheeks, for which I will forever be grateful.

  • This does look appetizing. I enjoy oxtail and usually make it the way I learned to in Rome, “alla vaccinara”. Not very different than this method, although less spiced. I’m intrigued by the Spanish touches here, the smoked paprika and chorizo. I have’t made oxtail for a good while—but here’s my reason to get back to it.

  • I pity those poor Spaniards for being subjected to the spectacle of a bunch of middle-aged pasty-skinned lurid-spandex-enclosed tourists attempting to conquer peaks they have no business about,coaxing themselves and their bicycles uphill using the age-old techniques of gutttural grunting, whinging about the heat, and excessive flatulence.On the plus siode, if you can squeeze a couple of steaks under your spandex in crucial places the enzymes in your sweat makes an awesome meat tenderiser plus bonus free seasoning.

  • I guess I’m a WIDRA! Good to know! 🙂
    The stew looks fantastic.

  • Great stew, Conor. As you can guess I’d use the meat jacuzzi for this. I have an oxtail recipe coming up soon. May try the Spanish flavors next time.

  • Those are lovely oxtails in the raw and an interesting recipe.

  • You had me laughing ere I got down the first para: you had promised this and it well delivered! And your oxtail shown is SO much less fatty than what lies in the plastic-wrapped tray in the ‘pet section’ at my supermarket! I just cannot understand people willing to eat dull and boring steak and chops [OK, some of it is not!!] and go without liver[s] and sweetbreads and kidneys and oxtail – that is not even an innard! My very favourite is beef tongue – oh to wait for the 3-4 delicious hours re aroma and then begin peeling the thick skin off unable to wait for the first taste!!!! And, yes, if there is not a WIDRA, methinks there are a few here willing to start one 🙂 !

  • I love oxtail, I love Spanish flavours, I love your cooking. You’ll have a lodger if you don’t watch out. 😉

      • Thank you, that’s very kind. Soon, I hope! But sadly not this side of Christmas. Linda xxx

  • In my opinion if you don’t eat all of the beast, you shouldn’t eat any of it. Oxtail is an all time fave here, although it’s richness means a little goes a long way. Some of the best slow cooked dishes I’ve tasted have been on the Iberian penninsula. I’ve added this to my todo list for next winter

  • What a great way to have stick to your ribs food and to showcase the lovely Spanish flavours.

  • Trust the brother to be the bossy one!

  • Hi, How many does this recipe feed? Looks delicious and would like to try this weekend. If i needed to double the recipe does it work if the oxtail are stacked on top of each other in the large pot?

  • Great thanks v much. Making it tomorrow. Your photo of the ingredients looks like it has a bulb of garlic but I don’t think I see it in the list of ingredients.

  • Conor, this was a triumph. Absolutely delicious and very well received by all with some Marques de Riscal to accompany! great recipe.

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