Deeply flavourful Jamaican stew loaded with tender oxtail and butter beans
If you want maximum flavour and a food hug, then make this Jamaican oxtail stew with rice and peas.
- SERVES: 4 – 6 people
- COOK TIME: 3.5 hrs + marinating overnight
- DIFFICULTY: easy
- IDEAL FOR: weekend meal, crowd-pleaser, comforting
- BUDGET: £
Jamaican oxtail stew with rice and peas
Make this oxtail stew on a rainy Autumn Day or when you have a crowd to feed.
The tender, fall-apart oxtail and silky gravy make it a comforting dish, and easy to make.
It’s back to one of my favourite methods of cooking, low-and-slow.
The trick to this dish is marinating the oxtail overnight to get the depth of flavour as it simmers for a few hours.
Oxtail is a cut that needs those low and slow hours to create that tender, falling-off-the-bone dish.
On top of that, as the fat renders while it gently bubbles away, the flavours it creates just get better and better.
This isn’t a midweek meal (unless you batch it and freeze some).
But it is a very easy weekend hands-off meal.
You just need to get it underway and then you’re free to do as you please.
A little food history of Jamaican Oxtail
The origin of stews like oxtail can be traced back to Jamaica’s colonial heritage.
Enslaved Africans on plantations were only given meagre amounts of meat and often had to make do with cheaper cuts.
So, the mighty one-pan, hearty meat stew using cheap meat cuts was created.
By adding in veggies, aromatics, peppers, spinners (dumplings) or beans etc., a flavoursome, nutritious meal was made.
We are in a privileged position to be enjoying the flavours of Jamaica.
We’re lucky to have never had to go through such dire times and hardships.
And now we can enjoy these cheaper cuts (which have become food-trendy).
So, what I would say is, there is no need to buy cheap meat… cheap cuts, yes.
But we need to look after the planet and the animals.
And the way we can do this is by eating less meat but buying higher quality, locally sourced.
So, when you ask your butcher for oxtail, try and get grass-fed.
Failing that make sure it’s from a farm that looks after their animals i.e. it does not come from an industrialised method of farming.
Rice and peas
We better get this correct from the off.
When you hear or see ‘rice and peas’, don’t think of actual peas.
Instead, think red kidney beans.
Traditional Jamaican rice and peas recipe is rice (usually long grain), red kidney beans (‘peas’), coconut milk, green onions, garlic, thyme, allspice berries and a scotch bonnet.
Quick and easy rice and peas
Rice and peas when made in its truly authentic way, means a little bit more TLC.
Usually, you use dried kidney beans and soak them overnight.
And instead of tinned coconut milk, it involved hand-grating coconut.
However, this recipe is a good nod to the flavours of Jamaica and is nice and quick to make using tinned kidney beans and coconut milk.
Also, if you don’t have a scotch bonnet (I keep some frozen in the freezer), you can sub in habanero pepper.
If you don’t have allspice berries, then substitute ground allspice.
The conversion is six whole allspice berries is the equivalent of 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice.
How to cook rice and peas
- Rinse your rice under cold water then tip into a large saucepan.
- Add the coconut milk, spring onions, thyme, garlic and allspice. Season with salt and pepper and add 300 ml water.
- Bring to a boil, add the beans, then turn off the heat, cover the pan and let steam for approx. 15 mins until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.
- Serve on a large platter with the rice and peas first and slices of chicken over top.
If you want to try another Jamaican recipe, check out Jerk chicken with rice and peas.
Recipe: Olive Magazine
Jamaican oxtail stew
- 1 kg oxtail, chopped into 4-5cm chunks (grass-fed if possible)
- 1 tbsp All-purpose seasoning (you can buy in supermarkets)
- 2 1/2 tbsp light brown soft sugar
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp grated ginger
- 4 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 tbsp ground all-spice
- 1 red pepper, roughly chopped
- 1 green pepper, roughly chopped
- 1 scotch bonnet (or sub in some chilli flakes or cayenne pepper)
- 3 thyme sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- 500 ml beef stock (made using 2 stock cubes)
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 400 g tin butter beans, drained and rinsed
- squeeze o lemon
- handful of parsley, finely chopped
Rice and peas (optional)
- 200 g long rice (or basmati) – rinse the starch off under cold water400 g coconut milk
- 1 bunch of spring onions, sliced
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 x 400 g tinned cans red kidney beans, drained
Marinade oxtail overnight
- Season the oxtail chunks well with salt, pepper and the all-purpose seasoning. Chill overnight.
- Scatter the sugar into a large casserole pot or a heavy-based pan and set over a medium heat. Swirl the pan until the sugar has melted and turned very dark, about 5-6 mins. Carefully add 2 tbsp of water, then stir using a silicone spatula until combined.
- Lightly dust the oxtail chunks in the flour, then add to the pot in two batches, stirring to coat in the blackened sugar. Cook, until well browned and caramelised all over, about 2-3 mins per batch. Remove from the pan and return to the bowl. Cover.
- Heat the vegetable oil in the pan then fry the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, ginger and half of the spring onions for 5 mins until softened. Add the tomato purée and allspice, and cook for a minute more until thick and darker in colour.Return the oxtail to the pot along with any resting juices, plus the peppers, scotch bonnet chilli, thyme and bay leaves. Stir in the stock, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce – the oxtail should just covered with the liquid so add some water if it's a little low.Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for 2-3hrs, stirring occasionally, until the meat starts to become tender.
- Uncover and stir in the remaining spring onions. Cook for another 40 mins, with the lid partially ajar to release any stem – when ready, the meat will be very tender.Add the butter beans and cook for 10 mins more to warm through. Remove the scotch bonnet and thyme sprigs, then stir in the lemon juice and parsley. Taste for seasoning.
- Serve with rice and peas, (or plain rice, crusty bread or even mash).
Rice and peas
- Let the stew rest and make the rice and peas.
- Rinse the rice and add to a large saucepan. Add the coconut milk, spring onions, thyme, garlic and allspice. Season with salt and pepper and add 300 ml water.
- Bring to a boil, add the beans, then turn off the heat, cover the pan and let steam for approx. 15 mins until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.Serve on a large platter with the rice and peas first and place the oxtail over top.** I don't add any All-spice to this rice and peas dish as per a normal recipe as there is All-spice in the oxtail stew.