Really Slow Cooked Oxtail Pie
This one was two days in the making (everybody knows a good curry tastes a thousand times better the following day!) Couple this with the fact that a good pie is my single favourite food, I was sure I would be on to a winner with this one - and I was. Steak pies are a very common thing, but I wanted to spruce it up a little and I did this by using oxtail as the main ingredient. This is a cheap ingredient (one tail cost me about 6 quid) which, if cooked in the right way, is unbelievably full of flavour. It has definitely grown in popularity recently - I guess this is due to its cost during this terrible financial crisis we are in! Whatever the reason, this is a great ingredient and I think this way of cooking and serving it really does make for something pretty delicious.
The oxtail is a really tough cut of meat because it is so gelatinous and also because the animal is constantly moving its tail and making a strong muscular tissue. As such, it needs long slow cooking to be able to make it nice to eat. I took this idea a little further and cooked it REALLY slowly. We don't have a slow cooker, but then I realised that the technique of slow-cooking must be older than the invention of the modern day slow cooker! So I did a bit of research and worked out a good temperature that can be used to cook this in a conventional oven. I decided on 110/120C for about 9/10 hours. I put it in the oven before I went to bed and by the morning it was perfect (plus a good nights sleep to the smells of slow cooking cow). Some people caution against leaving the oven on for so long but I really can't see what can go wrong at these temperatures. It is so low that the stew will not even be bubbling so it can't cook itself dry or anything like that. If you really don't want to try this, then I guess a higher heat of about 160C for 3-4 hours would be OK.
To me, a good pie should be a thick and rich filling either topped off or fully encased in a buttery pastry, with a velvety gravy poured on afterwards. Too many times I see pies just as a stew with a pie lid on top. I think you should be able to cut a piece and it can stand by itself and not run all over the plate! See my method for instructions on how to achieve this.
As mentioned, this took me two days to make. After the cooking of the stew, let it rest for atleast 10 hours before making it into a pie. So plan ahead for this one!
As for the pastry, I opted for a basic rough-puff, mainly due to its high butter content. This is not a recipe for anybody who is counting the calories! It is rich and strong, but well worth all the effort.
One final thing - I used beer in this recipe, not red wine. I'm English, not French.
For me, this recipe made the perfect amount to make one pie in a dish sized 26cm x 20cm.