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Slow cooker oxtail braised in cider

I loooove oxtail. Forget about Heinz oxtail soup, I’m talking about real oxtail. It has such delicious qualities; so flavoursome compared to other cuts of beef, plus it just falls apart when slow cooked, which is actually the only way to cook oxtail, as far as I know. The meat has a gelatinous quality, in a good way, that gives it real richness. It’s cheaper than many other cuts, and oh so much tastier in my opinion. I bought a slow cooker recently, and I’m still figuring it out. A few recipes in and, as I suspected, it’s these type of cuts – the fatty, cheaper ones like oxtail, shin of beef, or shoulder of lamb – that give the best results. I cooked a chicken in it which worked out OK but I think there are other ways of cooking chicken that are preferable as far as I’m concerned.

Lots of people I speak to about slow cookers seems to want to throw it all in let it do it’s thing. Now, it’s fine to do this with a rice pudding or something, but I personally wouldn’t go down that route with a meat dish. I believe 25 minutes browning your meat off nicely and then getting the rest of the ingredients started off will benefit you greatly in the resulting dish and is time well spent – most of it is time in the pan anyway. This was out-of-this-world-good. My kids ate seconds and we all ummed and ahhed our way through it. So nutritious too with 3 vegetables in there, plus I’m sure cooking on the bone like this has health benefits, there is so much goodness in the bones. It will be a regular dish for us, that I know for sure. I’ve slow cooked oxtail a variety of ways before – it’s good cooked in a stew with a bootle of Rioja and some chorizo for smokiness, or braised in beer as in a previous recipe. But try it with cider, it is to die for.

To serve off the bone (if you or your diners are squeamish about such things), simply pull all the meat off the bones (so easy to do) and mix through. Discard bones – you might want to lick all the sauce off first though!

Serves 4 adults
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 6 hours
Total time: 6 hours 25 minutes

800g of oxtail (that’s the amount we had, it would be fine with more)
500ml good quality cider
500ml light beef stock
200g good quality, thickly sliced lardons of smoked bacon or pancetta
1 leek, sliced roughly
2 carrots, diced roughly
1 onion, sliced roughly
1 bay leaf
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of plain flour
1 tablespoon of oil


  1. First brown off your oxtail in a little oil over a medium high heat. You want to get a nice rich colour – all over – so turn them over once a side is coloured to cover all sides. Remove and set aside once completely browned. 
  2. Now fry off your lardons until starting to crisp, about 5 minutes will do it, and then tip in all your veg. Give a good stir and let the veggies start to soften for about 10 minutes or so, stirring every now and then. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of flour (this will thicken the sauce) and stir well to cover the mixture evenly. 
  3. Preheat your slow cooker on low. 
  4. Pour in your cider and beef stock and give a good stir, making sure you scrape the bottom of the pan so the flour isn’t sticking. Add the oxtail back to the pan, bring to the boil. 
  5. Tip the entire mixture, gently, into the slow cooker. Cook for 6 hours on low. Serve with creamy, buttery mashed potato. 

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