Rabo Encendido

Tail on Fire

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


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This is loosely based on a Cuban spicy stew usually served on special occasions. Meaty chunks of oxtail are dredged with a piquant seasoning of flour, black pepper, dry mustard, thyme, allspice and paprika, then stewed at a leisurely pace until the meat is falling off the bone. Creamy cannellini beans, though not authentic, mellow the fiery juices.


  • cannellini beans 400 g/14 oz, soaked for several hours
  • vegetable oil 8 tbsp
  • onions 3 medium, roughly chopped
  • carrots 3 medium, thickly sliced
  • celery stalks 6, roughly chopped
  • garlic cloves 4 large, thinly sliced
  • tomato purée 2 tbsp
  • oxtail 2.25 kg/5 lb, cut into 5 cm/2 in pieces
  • Spiced Flour
  • meat stock 1.2 litres/2 pints, preferably home-made
  • robust red wine 425 ml/¾ pint
  • thyme 2–3 sprigs
  • rosemary 2–3 sprigs
  • fresh bay leaves 4
  • sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • flat-leaf parsley to garnish


Drain the beans, tip into a large saucepan and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil, boil for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat a little and cook for 30 minutes to 1 hour until tender but not breaking up. (The exact cooking time will depend on the age of your beans.) Drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas 2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, wide casserole over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery, and gently fry with the lid on for about 10 minutes or until beginning to soften. Stir in the garlic and tomato purée and cook for a few minutes more.

While the vegetables are cooking, put the oxtail in a large polythene bag with the spiced flour and shake until evenly coated. Shake off any residue.

Next, heat the rest of the oil in a large, high-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the oxtail and fry, in batches if necessary, until browned on both sides. Remove the pieces from the pan as they brown and set aside on a plate.

Once the vegetables are cooked, add the oxtail pieces to the casserole, in a single layer if possible.

Pour about 150ml/¼ pint of the stock into the oxtail pan and stir over medium heat, scraping up all the sticky residue from the bottom of the pan. Pour this over the meat and vegetables.

Add the remaining stock and the wine to the casserole. Stir in the beans and herbs and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put the lid on and bring slowly to the boil. Once bubbling away, place the casserole in the oven and cook for 2½ hours or until the meat is very tender. Check after 1½ hours and add more stock or water, if necessary. The sauce should be quite thick but not dry. Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Garnish with parsley just before serving.