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Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a flameproof casserole over a medium-high heat and brown the beef all over, removing it to a plate with a slotted spoon as you go (you may need to do this in batches). Drizzle the rest of the oil into the pan. Peel the onions (but leave whole) and add to the pan, then scatter over the sugar. Sizzle for 5 mins, stirring now and then until starting to brown. Add the garlic, bay, cinnamon stick, allspice, cloves and oregano, and cook for 1 min more. Stir in the tomato purée and cook for another minute, then tip in the beef along with any resting juices. Stir to coat in the spiced onion mixture.
Add the red wine vinegar and chopped tomatoes. Rinse the cans out with the wine and pour it in, then add a third of a can of water. Season with salt and stir well. Bring to a simmer, stir again, then cover with the lid and transfer to the oven for 1 hr.
Remove from the oven and stir again. If the sauce looks very thick, add a splash more water. Cover again and return to the oven for another hour, or until the meat is fork-tender – the timing will depend on the cut you’ve used. Serve hot. To get ahead, leave to cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container and chill for up to three days or freeze for up to three months. Defrost completely in the fridge overnight, then reheat in a pan over a low heat with a splash more water to loosen, if needed.