Ashley’s beef stew with smoked oysters

This really should be called Ashley’s anxious beef stew with smoked oysters. While I love quick to prepare, slow-cooked one-pot meals, the fact that you often have to leave the house while they are cooking fills with dread (what if it burns, what if it catches fire, what if I raze the house to the ground?). That’s why this one cooks overnight.

Taken Christmas 2013 in a small appartment in Paris after a particularly hard winter. Mum had died in October and my other half took me to Paris, my second home, to relax.Taken Christmas 2013 in a small apartment in Paris after a particularly hard winter. Mum had died in October and my then other half took me to Paris, my second home, to relax.

I live in a small flat, my kitchen is in my living room, the sink elsewhere, and I have no dining table. This dish is the perfect solution when I want to throw dinner for four or five people. The washing up is done a day before hand, it has one dish that people can eat from their laps.

The oysters here are really the star. As well as adding a smokiness, they add an almost metallic tang that helps cut through the richness of the stew. If you have a guest who is allergic to shellfish, just remove them (the oysters, not your guest), the dish stands alone without them.

Music to prepare this dish to: ‘Justified and Ancient’ by The KLF


  • 2kg ox cheeks cut in to large chunks
  • 15 cloves of garlic peeled (yes, 15)
  • 10 shallots, peeled, topped and tailed
  • 4 large sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 bottles of full bodied red wine
  • 1 85g can of smoked oysters (preferably in oil)
  • Salt & pepper
  • Vegetable oil for frying


  1. Heat your oven to 140c.
  2. You need a dish that works for hob and the oven. In the dish fry the chunks of ox cheek. Season them well and ensure you get a good colour on them. Don’t fry the meat off all at the same time, it needs space to brown off.
  3. Once the meat is done, set to one side and in the pan fry off the shallots and garlic for ten minutes over a low heat, again season but not too much. You want them to sweat not brown.
  4. Add the meat back to the pan and mix the meat with the onions and garlic. Add the rosemary, and bay leaves (make sure they are evenly distributed) and then pour over the wine. Keep a quarter bottle behind in case you need to loosen the stew later.
  5. Bring the pan to the boil, remove from the heat and cover with a tight fitting lid (you can use double layers of foil if you’ve got no lid).
  6. Place in your oven and cook for 8 hours (overnight is always best).
  7. Half an hour before cooking time is up drain your oysters and stir through the stew. How many you add is up to you. These can be quite strong so use your judgment.
  8. This is the time to check the thickness of your stew – loosen with wine if you need to. If it doesn’t need loosening it, drink it.
  9. 30 minutes after adding the oyster, you’re ready. Either serve straight from the pan with toasted, crunchy bread or leave till you come home from work and reheat it slowly.

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