The perfect dish to fall asleep over!

DELICIOUS MEAL: A tenderly cooked Rabo de toro dish Photo: The Little Geranium

THIS week Celebrity Chef from Ready Steady Cook & Fellow Master Chef Steven Saunders, proprietor of The Little Geranium in La Cala cooks a beautiful winter dish of slow cooked Oxtail with truffled potato.

In Spain this fantastic dish is called Rabo de toro (tail of the bull, or cow nowadays). Over the years it has become one of the most popular cuts of meat, very much on trend with chefs like me that like using the souvide machine or slow cooking unusual cuts of meat. It is one of those dishes that is widely appreciated all over the world, but it hailed from Cordoba on our doorstep! Its tradition began around the 16th century when most women had to reinvent their cooking skills in order to cook for large numbers of people. Since they were allowed to take the tails from the bulls killed in the bull fights, this type of food became extremely popular. Soon rabo de toro turned from the poor food into an elegant and aristocratic dish, like most poor food! Although found all over the world especially in places like South America, the Spanish have the dish perfect in my opinion. The rich gravy flavoured from the tender meat cooking on the bone, creates the most amazing flavours. Oxtail is a gelatin rich meat which helps it keep moist whilst it slow cooks and adds all that rich thickness and sticky texture. I remember cooking Rabo de toro a few years ago for a group of friends for a dinner party at home. I got started before lunchtime to prepare in advance. I opened at least 3 bottles of good red wine to cook it in and obviously sampled them first! The first wine was an amazing Barolo from Italy and after a few glasses I reluctantly gave the rest up for the stew. The second bottle was a French burgundy and that too was great and so I took a couple of glasses. The third bottle was a Spanish Rioja reserva and after a large glass of this beautiful smooth red I started to feel a bit dizzy and very tired and so I put the stew in the oven on low heat and sat down on the sofa. I fell asleep and when my friends turned up for dinner at 8pm I had been asleep for almost 8 hours!  Oh my god the stew!!  I rushed to the oven with my friends laughing out loud and looked in the pan. To my surprise the Oxtail had cooked to the most tender delicious meat absorbing all the red wine and the stock, the flavours were amazing. I served it up with truffled mash and everyone said it was the best oxtail that they had ever eaten. Falling asleep had done me a favour albeit the recipe that I was looking at had only called for 4 hours cooking. From that day on I have always made it the same way. I drink some of the wine, put the rest in the stew, put the stew in the oven and then fall asleep. It’s such a treat to wake up to this delicious meal as long as you set the alarm! I served this dish up in my Geranium in La Cala this week and regulars Mike and Mary (foodies) were so delighted that they left me a great Trip Advisor review and begged me to cook it more often. This is the perfect dish to cook when you are feeling tired and not yet hungry!

Rabo de Toro, foie gras, truffled potato  

Ingredients for 4/6

The recipe for this popular dish can vary enourmously and as you can imagine my version is not totally common! I add foie gras for creamy luxury but it’s not essential and I also use good red wine and add locally grown seasonal vegetables, so you could add what you like here. 

For the stew

2 kilos oxtails, cut into 5cm pieces approx.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons of Maldon salt

2 teaspoons of black fresh ground pepper

2 large Spanish onions, chopped

4 Spanish tomatoes, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped coarsely (save leaves for garnish)

1 large parsnip peeled and cut into chunks

1 large carrot, chopped into chunks

4 cloves of garlic, cloves crushed

2 sprigs of fresh Thyme

2 bottles full bodied good quality red wine, 
such as Rioja

400ml of good beef stock or a rich stock made from beef gravy granules

2 bay leaves

2 whole pieces of star anise

To finish the dish

½ bottle tawny port (to finish the sauce)

Mashed potato (enough for 4/6 portions)

125g unsalted butter cut into small cubes

200 ml thick cream

1 tablespoon of truffle oil

1 tablespoon of truffle pieces

Maldon salt

½ a small fresh Foie liver, cut into 4/ 6 small pieces (optional)


Like making any stew, the oxtail pieces are seared in a deep thick bottomed sauce pan in a little olive oil and seasoned with the salt and pepper.

When they start to colour up, add the tomatoes, vegetables and garlic and stir well in. When the pan is really hot and the pieces of oxtail are a nice light brown colour add the first bottle of wine and the star anise, the bay leaves and the thyme.

Now add the beef stock and stir it all in well. Make sure the meat is totally submerged in the liquids

Put in a pre heated oven at 180c uncovered and cook fast to get the stew moving for about 10 mins.

Now reduce the heat to 120c and top it up the stew pot with more red wine until full and cover the stew pot with a lid or tin foil.   Now its time to fall asleep. Set the alarm for 7 hours later!

Time to wake up! After 7 hours check the stew. It should have absorbed nearly all the wine and stock if not then keep cooking slowly for another hour. When the sauce is thick and the meat is tender and falling away easily from the bone then the stew is done.

Now remove the pieces of oxtail and the vegetables and star anise etc and pass the remaining sauce through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan. Add the port and reduce until thick (usually 10/15 mins

Put the oxtail pieces back into the fresh pan (into the new reduced sauce) and simmer on low heat until needed.  Serve with creamy truffle mash. 

Truffle mash

Heat the cream and add a good tablespoon of truffle oil to the cream. Warm the mashed potato and add the warm cream and the truffle pieces and then gradually add the butter and beat it all in using a plastic spoon or spatula until light creamy (like the consistency of thick cream) Season and taste.

The final Presentation

Serve at least two pieces of oxtail per person each on some creamy mash which you have pulled over the plate so that it’s not too dense. Fry the foie in a hot pan with no oil or anything else until golden then sear quickly on the other side. Place the cooked foie on top of the oxtail with a few micro cresses or herbs or even the celery leaves and serve. Serve with plenty of sauce spooned over and sit back and watch the expression on your guests faces!

You can email Steven any queries or questions on:

Steven Saunders FMCGB

The Little Geranium

La Cala De Mijas

(Behind the Town Hall in central La Cala)

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