Main course: serves 4. Total time: 2 hours 50 minutes
One large oxtail is going to yield about three large joints, two medium ones and one or two tiny tail-end pieces. All may be used within the same dish. It would also be rare indeed for a butcher to sell you just the large bits or allow you to leave his premises without first having expertly jointed your tails.

2 large oxtails, jointed
salt and pepper
a little dripping, or oil and butter mixed
2kg onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3 bay leaves
2tbsp red wine vinegar
2tbsp anchovy essence
4tbsp chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 275F/ 140C/gas mark 1. Season the oxtail and then dust with flour all over. Heat the chosen fat in a deep, cast-iron casserole dish that also has a lid. Gently fry the oxtail on all surfaces until crusted and golden. Remove to a plate.

Tip off all but a couple of tablespoons of the fat. Turn the heat down to almost nothing, lay half of the onions in the bottom of the pot, reintroduce the oxtail in one layer together with the bay leaves and then cover with the rest of the onions. Lay a buttered sheet of greaseproof paper (butter side down) upon the surface and put on the lid. Place in the oven and leave there for 2 hours.

Remove from the oven and pick out the oxtail. Place the pot back on to a moderate heat and stir together the onions, which will now have collapsed to a golden goo. Stir in the anchovy essence, vinegar and parsley and return the oxtail, burying it in the onions. Put the lid back on, return to the oven and cook for a further 30 minutes. Serve directly from the pot, with mashed potatoes.