Jamaican Oxtail Stew with Guinness

Every so often, Chris will put in a dinner request: “I saw a Jamaican oxtail stew on Levi Roots a couple of weeks ago” he tells me, “can you make it tonight?” It sounds like a gentle question but is in fact a firm requisition. I’ve tried resisting once before and the look on his little face pulled so hard on the heart strings that I’m now conditioned to comply. Thankfully he was able to remember a few scant details, so a bit of light Googling and a recipe was formed. I marched off purposefully to pick up 1 kg oxtail pieces from a local butcher who describes his shop as, “Irish and Caribbean” – he is Irish, many of his customers Caribbean; it makes sense I suppose.

I rolled the chunks in seasoned flour then browned them on all sides, in batches (so as not to crowd the pan), and set aside. I then softened some diced onion, carrot and celery before adding back the oxtail plus 3 cloves crushed garlic; 1.5 tablespoons thyme leaves; 2 scotch bonnet chillies; 2 tablespoons allspice; 4 large tomatoes, chopped; 2 bay leaves; 1 teaspoon of sugar; 1 litre of beef stock and a can of Guinness. I let this bubble gently for 3 hours before adding 2 cans of beans (I used kidney and pinto) for another 30-45 minutes.

The rich oxtail flaked into melty mouthfuls while the marrow from the bones and high fat content gave the stew a wonderful gelatinous quality. There were still some bits of meat clinging to bone too, which satisfied the need to pick up and gnaw. The gravy was fragrant with allspice and tingling with scotch bonnet heat. I was happy with the Guinness addition too, which is a nod to the Guinness punch served in some Caribbean places; I’ve still yet to try it but have fallen rather in love with the idea. In this stew, it gives an extra depth with bite.

The stew was devoured in a frenzy of slurping, chewing and murmuring, punctuated by the odd ‘ker-ping!’ as discarded pieces of bone were slung into an empty bowl. I’m pretty sure this means I delivered the goods. It’s going into the repertoire for future tweaking and handily, fits into the frugal category, which is the name of the game in this house right now. In my hunt for bargain ingredients, I’ve been exploring the depths of Peckham Rye to an even greater extent than before and finding all sorts of weird and wonderful treats hiding away. Watch this space.

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35 thoughts on “Jamaican Oxtail Stew with Guinness

  1. Hi Helen,

    This recipe looks great, I’m hoping to cook it tomorrow. I have what may be a silly question – do you leave the scotch bonnets whole or chop them up?


    1. Hi Tom, leave them whole! You’ll be in pain otherwise…you can make a hole in one of them if you want more heat to escape.

  2. I made this recently and was fantastic – making again for New Year when I have friends over. Cracking recipe. Heat was perfect too!

  3. ooh gotta try this! been loving oxtail stew for ever and this sounds no harder than the usual stuff ot make!
    Husband not convinced but might do anyway and present a fait accomple< I'l keep you all posted on that!

  4. This seems to be the best recipe I have found and believe me I have looked at hundreds . Am going to make it for my three little girls tomorrow will let you know the results.
    Hold tight

  5. This looks delectable as ever….and you’ve single-handedly made Peckham Rye a proper foodie destination. I had no idea there were such treats down there – fresh anchovies? Irish-Caribbean butchers?! The council ought to give you an award or something.

  6. Anh – ha ha, yes it is. He is a lovely, friendly chap as well. They have some unusual cuts in there too.

    Dan – Urgh oog urrrrrrrf arg ooggg ug.

    Karine – You can’t say no! Well, not unless you are a bit mean anyway.

    Ollie – Thank you! It is indeed a rib-sticker. I could eat a vat of it now to be honest. Brrr!

  7. You conjured a very primal scene at the end there, the way you described eating said stew with your boyfriend. Do you actually live in a cave in Peckham and wear animal skins at the weekend?

    Looks and sounds delicious.


  8. Andy – Brilliant. Do let me know what you think if you make it.

    Christie – Ha ha, yes, it was a weekend meal. Although I have served him dinner at 1 am before. Believe.

    James – It is indeed the cook’s magic wand that makes these things happen! Yes I went through a huge phase with ham hocks. There are a few recipes from said phase on here in fact! It was the smoked ones in particular I couldn’t get enough of. They went in pies, soup, terrines. I saw one the other day and nearly bought it in fact.

    Chris – Oh I reckon you could get your ingredients in Nevins all right. If you can get the stuff for an Irish-Caribbean breakfast anywhere, then it is there. Out of interest, what does an Irish-Caribbean breakfast contain exactly?!

    Su-Lin – Oh yes. The time is right for oxtail for sure. Gelatinous lip-sticking goodness.

    Lizzie – Yeah I have done it that way too or have seen it included as an optional step in recipes. The stew recipes I saw though didn’t mention it so I didn’t do it and this is classic Caribbean rib-sticking stuff!

    Ben – Oh how I love it when someone gives me a heads up on an ingredient! I had no idea of its existence but will track it down as soon as possible, thank you.

    Kerri – I have just seen the soup and it is stunning!

    Nina – it was some fine stew I have to say – I love those Caribbean flavours. I didn’t see thyme in many of the other recipes but it is such a classic flavour for me that I couldn’t help but include it.

    Helen – Ha ha, yes they do! Any excuse to cook something. I am a total feeder. No shame.

  9. I went out on Thursday and Stephen offered to cook, I requested something hearty and came home to find him cooking oxtail! I really like the sound of this, it’s such a versatile cut and I’d like to use it more.

  10. If you can find them, the bottles of Nigerian Guinness are excellent for stews/pies/braises – having a lot more of a dark sweet malty flavour. It’s a lot stronger at about 7.5%abv. Lovely recipe – I’m going to give it a bash.

  11. I’ve only cooked oxtail once, and that required an overnight cooling; I was shocked by how much fat came out of them. Which would explain the mm… sticky… gelatinous… meaty… dribble.

  12. Seriously tasty! It makes it when you have requests like those if you keep a magic wand in the kitchen. 1 swish, and the meal appears. Must be magic!

    I have some oxtail lurking in the freezer – been wondering what to do with it. Keep picking it up when I see it at the farm.

    Tried ham hocks? Got some on Friday. Had to ask for them – the butcher keeps them hidden – wonder why? £1.50 each and you can get 6 – 10 portions from one depending on how frugal you’re feeling…..


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