I saw this post by Antonia of Food, Glorious Food! on the UK Food Bloggers Association website, and it immediately reminded me of the oxtail languishing in my freezer. As I have hardly cooked any British food at all on this blog, I thought this might be a perfect opportunity to do so.
The British Food Fortnight runs from 20th September. It celebrates local, seasonal British produce and the rules were to create a thoroughly British dish from locally sourced ingredients (where possible).
I bought the oxtail on a whim while at the local butcher's shop. I had read it can be difficult for some people to get hold of, so I thought I best snap it up while I can. Of course, I was at a bit of a loss with what to do with it and it went into the freezer.
The most popular preparation of oxtail seems to be in soup, but I wanted to use something that to me, is quintessentially British; ale. It immediately conjures pictures of old pubs and English country beer gardens. I'm not a drinker of it myself, but a quick call to my dad told me that if I were to use it in a pie, dark ale would be best.
Being a resident of Greater London, there was no better choice than London Pride, brewed in Chiswick and has been for the last 350 years. This was to be the base of the pie filling. A word of warning; this pie takes two days...
Ale & Oxtail Pie
4 large pieces of oxtail
1 large white onion
3 cloves of garlic
3 carrots, roughly chopped
3 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
6 closed cup mushrooms,sliced
2 bay leaves
1 bottle of London Pride (500mls)
Small bunch of thyme
15 whole black peppercorns
450mls beef stock
1 box of Jus-Rol puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
Chop the onion roughly and lightly squish the whole cloves of garlic with the blade of your knife. Sweat the onions until softened and add the garlic. Fry slowly for 5 mins. Remove from the pan into a separate bowl, and set the pan back on a high heat. Brown the oxtail on all sides. Add the onions and garlic back in, and turn the heat down. Add the carrots, bay leaves, peppercorns and celery and stir fry until softened. Add all the ale in, and simmer for 15 mins. Then add the beef stock, mushrooms and the thyme and simmer for at least 4 hours.
Leave this to cool, and place in the fridge. Oxtail is quite fatty, and it's good to skim off the fat that collects and hardens at the top. You will also find that it has all set into jelly; warming this back up on the hob returns it to liquid.
Shred the oxtail meat from the bones, and discard the bones. Place it all into your pie dish (mine's 26cm) and leave to cool. Roll some puff pastry over the top carefully, and brush with beaten egg. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees celcius and bake the pie for 20 mins, or until the top is puffy and browned.
Every time I've had pie, there has always been leaves made with excess pastry stuck on top, so I did the same. I added the 'Pie' in case we couldn't figure out what it was...
So how did it taste? Well, it was definitely worth the two day cooking time. The sauce was rich and meaty, with a slight hint of bitter behind it. The meat melted in the mouth and was definitely not as tough as I was expecting; rather the opposite. The pastry soaked up the juices wonderfully and was buttery, yet light. Perhaps next time I'll attempt to make my own puff pastry...