Rabo de Toro oxtail tapas | Recipes | Moorlands Eater

Spanish oxtail recipe slow cooker

Video Spanish oxtail recipe slow cooker

Winter is traditionally the time for slow-cooked stews, and oxtail, with its rich flavor and smooth, silky texture brought on by prolonged cooking, is understandably a contender for this type of comfort food.

But for me, oxtail evokes thoughts of warmer climates; specifically the southern Spanish cities of Seville, Cordoba and Ronda. Those are the places where I have eaten the best oxtail, in the form of tapas of intense flavor Rabo de Toro, or oxtail. Its garlic sauce is rich and thick, usually incorporating red or white wine, sherry or brandy. You’ll almost always get some potatoes along with them, not exactly fries, not exactly roasted potatoes, but deliciously absorbing some of the meaty sauce.

It’s this version of oxtail, and how to make those potatoes taste so good using some of their fat, that I want to share with you today. I’ll also tell you where to get a great Staffordshire beef for oxtail.


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The Meat Bull’s Tail


originally developed so as not to waste any part of the dead bull in the bullring, hence the dish is more common in southern Spain, which is home to bullfighting. But rest assured, you need to have no ethical qualms about the source of the oxtail in this recipe, as I bought it from the flawless Denstone Hall Farm Shop, a family affair near the Derbyshire border.

Denstone Hall is a great supplier of high-quality local products, including beef from cattle on its own farm. The 28-day-old hanging meat is not only sold at their excellent butcher counter, but also features in their homemade items, such as pastries and lasagna available in their deli cabinets and packaged coolers. You’ll also find it in numerous forms on their coffee menu, such as in burgers, meatpies, sandwiches, and the like.

read my post about Denstone Hall Farm Shop & Café here

The oxtail is not so easy to find these days, I called the butcher counter a few days in advance and they were happy to book one for me to pick up. If you’re going to follow this recipe, don’t worry about the weight of meat to buy. Just get a whole oxtail, which will probably weigh between one and a kilo and a half, and use it all. The butcher will cut it into pieces for you.

Why oxtail

and not oxtail stew


As tasty as it is, there is not much meat in a oxtail. Consequently, traditional British oxtail stew may feel a little disappointed. His saddest examples are little more than a bowl of broth (albeit tasty) with, sitting on it, boiled vegetables and large bones with a little meat clinging to them.

That was my experience anyway when, as a kid, we occasionally ate homemade oxtail stew. My memory is that of struggling to scrape pieces of meat from boiling bones, chasing them around the bowl with a spoon.


Imagine how happier you would be to have an attractive plate of terracotta tapas placed in front of you with just a few pieces of delicious oxtail, wrapped in a bright, intensely flavored sauce.

I think it’s acceptable to eat this kind of dish with your fingers, as long as you don’t mind getting a little dirty. For me, that’s the best way to eat oxtail, accompanied by lots of napkins and helped by sucking your fingers judiciously.

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a few words about potatoes and beef fat

I hope I have convinced you that you really need to make this oxtail. But before you get going, you should first follow my advice on the potatoes that accompany it.

You could serve Rabo de Toro with chips or roasted potatoes, but in the spirit of Spaniards who wouldn’t dream of wasting any part of the animal, I recommend sautéing the potatoes in some oxtail fat. Potatoes cooked this way also taste great, so every decent fish and chip shop on earth used to cook their fries in beef fat.

I’m telling you at this point, because you need to cut

the chunks of fat from the larger pieces of oxtail before starting the recipe itself.

If you scroll back to the images of the raw oxtail, you will see that the larger pieces have small “ears” of fat and these are the ones you should remove before cooking. It’s easy to make the fat in a small, heavy pan while continuing with the rest of the dish: jump into the beef fat sautéed potato recipe to see how to make it.


must confess that, later, I eat the golden remains (they taste like the fat that is obtained on the outside of a good joint of roast meat), but I accept that it is not for everyone.

Casserole or slow cooker? the Instant Pot is even better

To break down the hard fibers of meat and release the collagen and gelatin that will give the dish its unctuous texture, oxtail should be cooked for a long time, between 3 and 5 hours. You can do this in a casserole with a lid in a low oven or in a slow cooker if you have one.

My preference, however, is for an electric pressure cooker, specifically the Instant Pot. Not only does the instant pot reduce cooking time to just an hour or so, but all the liquid and flavor is blocked, meaning you don’t have to worry about it boiling dry and you’ll still end up with a sauce full of flavor. You can also use the Instant Pot as a slow cooker, although I have never done so as those who have used both seem to agree that the pressure cooker gives much better results in terms of taste.

In the detailed recipe, I have given instructions for both the instant pot and cooking in the oven. If you choose to use a slow cooker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Golden and flavoring

It is important that the first step, browning the pieces of oxtail in olive oil, is not rushed. It is important to make sure they are well colored all over, as this will improve the taste of the sauce and meat. Also, do not fill the pot with too many pieces at once, as the steam created will inhibit the browning process.

After the usual stew vegetables (onion, carrot, celery, leek and garlic) soften in the resulting fleshy juices and also begin to color, the sherry and brandy (Spanish, of course) bubble in the pot until they are reduced to almost nothing. You could use red or white wine instead, although I find that red wine overwhelms the dish a bit.

The golden oxtail is returned to the pot along with the seasonings (including smoked paprika, bay leaf and thyme), chopped tomatoes and some meat broth. If you use cubes of meat broth, try to find a low-salt one, as it gives you more control over the salinity of your dish, which is particularly important if you want to reduce the sauce afterwards.


the sauce

When the meat is cooked, you can serve the “stew” as is, complete with the diced vegetables in the sauce. But the point of this dish is that it is much better to refine the sauce so that it is smooth and shiny and adheres beautifully to the pieces of oxtail. To do this, remove the oxtail (keeping it warm in the meantime) and strain all that remains through a sieve and into a jar or bowl.

Using a combination of stirring and gentle pushing, then squeeze more out of the precious sauce. However, be careful not to force soft vegetables through the sieve, as you just want them to give up the juices they cling to; If they are crushed through the sieve, you will end up with a thick vegetable soup instead of an attractive and shiny sauce. And I’ll get upset.


this point, you can reduce the sauce a little if desired, transferring it to a wide saucepan (to speed up evaporation) and bubbling vigorously for a few minutes. I like seasoning after this point and usually find that it needs more salt.

You can also cool the sauce to remove any fat that rises to the top. However, if you follow my advice (and you will, won’t you?) and cut out much of the visible fat before you start to make the accompanying potatoes, you’ll probably find that almost no fat has risen to the top anyway, so you could do without this stage.

I like to add the still hot oxtail pieces to the sauce and simmer it a little, which combines the flavors and ensures that the meat is well wrapped in its bright sauce.

All that’s left to do is divide the meat between dishes, sprinkle with some shiny, chopped parsley and curl up some potatoes sautéed in beef fat around the meat.


Serve with a

glass of cold, dry sherry either alone or with a selection of tapas dishes such as garlic fried prawns, chorizo cooked in cider, serrano ham, manchego cheese, olives and good bread.



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Canzaciti.com Culinary specialist with more than 10 years of experience in the restaurant industry.

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