Three-Day Oxtail with Gin and Beer

This dish really doesn't need a lot of work, but it does need a fair bit of time. If you can’t wait, you can shorten the process, but I think this dish is at it’s very best when made over a three-day period. On the first day you prepare the marinade and leave it overnight to do its stuff. On the second day you cook the dish in a relaxed manner and then chill it overnight. On the third day you reheat and enjoy it.

This is an Anglicised version of a ch’ti recipe from just across the channel. The original recipe would have used genièvre and a local beer (a bière ambrée) but gin and a pale ale will do nicely instead, if they’re easier to lay your hands on. You can use other beers, but avoid any that are very bitter.

This dish would normally be served simply with a little pasta or boiled potatoes, I think, but mashed potatoes, roasted celeriac or rice would be just fine too. This is a very warming and comforting dish for a winter’s day. Eat this and imagine yourself in a little estaminet somewhere near the coast of the Pas-de-Calais with good company and steamed-up windows. Hopefully, I'll be the badly dressed bloke in the corner studying a ‘Learn To Speak Ch’ti Without Tears’ book.

This will serve 2 but it will feed one or two more if accompanied by enough pasta, rice or veg. À chés fêtes !
Oxtail with Gin and Beer
600 g – 750 g oxtail, in thick slices

For the marinade:
     2 carrots, chopped into small chunks
     1 onion, chopped
     3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
     8 juniper berries
     2 sprigs rosemary
     1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar (not authentic, but it works)
     2 tbsp tomato purée
     100 ml gin (or genièvre, if you happen to have some)
     150 ml beer
     A little salt and a generous sprinkle of pepper

80 g smoked lardons
140 g mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp dark brown sugar
200 ml beef stock
A little lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped chervil or parsley

Day one: Simply mix all the marinade ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl and add the oxtail. Cover and place in the fridge overnight.

Day two: Preheat the oven to 150 °C, remove the oxtail from the marinade and pat it dry. Add the lardons to a large, dry frying pan and fry them over a medium heat until the fat begins to run. Add the oxtail to the pan and brown it lightly on all sides. Strain the marinade to separate the vegetables from the liquid (but keep both). Discard the rosemary. Add the strained vegetables to the pan together with the mushrooms. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes more. Sprinkle the sugar over the pan and pour in the reserved marinade liquid. Bring the liquid to simmering point and add the beef stock. Bring back to a simmer. Transfer the dish to a ovenproof casserole dish and place in the oven for 2 – 3 hours until the meat is very tender.

Allow the casserole to cool, at least until you can handle it. Remove the meat from the bones and break up into fairly small pieces. Discard the bones and any remaining chunks of fat. Return the meat to the casserole and put it in the fridge.

Day three: Skim off most of the fat and reheat the casserole in a low oven. When it’s nice and hot adjust the seasoning and add a squeeze or two of lemon. Sprinkle with a little chopped chervil or parsley if you fancy and serve with your chosen accompaniment.


  1. Just the thing for this awful weather, Phil. We love oxtail and this is a great idea. Have you see the film Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis? Eune boinne jornee!

    1. Adé ! I certainly have seen Bienvenue Chez les Ch'tis - in fact, it's one of the very small number of DVDs that I own. I'm particularly fond of the scenes in which the abandoned mining village is passed off as Bergues and I'll never be able to pass a Nord-Pas-de-Calais sign again without expecting a sheet of rain to hit me.

  2. I've never tried oxtail! I feel like I'm missing out big time!

  3. I love oxtail, but even better is ostrich neck cooked the same way and it has no fat. Have a good week. Diane

    1. I've eaten ostrich but never the neck. I'm definitely going to try that.

  4. I haven't been able to eat oxtail since being presented with a plate of 'Hamish tail stew' as a child - a friend's 'pet' heighlan' coo - and I had no idea it was being kept for eating purposes... This might be the dish that turns me around.

    1. That's so sad - I totally understand your reluctance to eat this particular cut. I'm sorry to bring back such painful memories. It is very tasty, though, if you can ever forget Hamish.

  5. This must be one of those dishes that are totally, totally worth the wait and the repeating of 'Good Things Come to Those Who Wait', Guiness Ad style

  6. Looks like a lovely, comforting dish Phil; I would love to try it out; with a mashed potatoes aside, hmm, heavenly :)

  7. Gin and beer, whats not to like? Seriously this sounds really tasty..

  8. Me and the other half were discussing oxtail just this morning as we spotted a sign outside local-ish butchers saying they had it freshly in, and that he remembers a lovely South African Oxtail dish his dad made but not the foggiest how its made... in the mean time this looks delicious and worth the 3 day wait!

    Though admittedly I am intrigued by the gin... its not normally a tipple of choice and something we would never buy, could I substitute it for something else?

    1. Well, you could use vodka instead, although it might be easiest just to use more beer. The good thing about the gin is that it adds extra juniper flavour plus a few extra hints of flavour of its own.

  9. Oxtail is a very popular dish in Roman cuisine, but I have never tried it. Here in Sicily it's not so known. Quite a lot of alcohol in this recipe!

    1. Oxtail has a huge amount of flavour - well worth trying. There is a fair bit of alcohol in the recipe but we need something to keep the cold out up here in the north, especially as the cold wind whips across the Nord-Pas-de-Calais.

  10. Hi Phil, this is just the sort of recipe for this horrible cold weather! I am that tempted to make it, I may have to use up the mother in law's Bombay Sapphire that she keeps in the cupboard here for when she visits. It may be worth risking her wrath for something as gorgeous looking as this!

    1. Actually, Bombay Sapphire would be just perfect in this dish, but I don't want to encourage family strife.

  11. We see oxtail for sale occasionally round here but I have never cooked it as I didn't know what to do with it.
    I imagine it's one of those magnificent cuts of meat like brisket that's actually dead easy to cook and so tasty. It certainly sounds wonderful, wholesome and warming. I am very tempted to try it next weekend, especially as it doesn't seem to require much in the way of equipment, most of our kitchen equipment currently being in my dad's garage!

    1. You're absolutely right - it is dead easy and very tasty. Just cook it long and slow and you can't really go wrong. I do think that a marinade adds a lot to the flavour and texture, though, if you have the time.

  12. A labour of love Phil, it sounds very decadent! Would love to dunk my crusty bread in it.

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