Pies like this are great for putting to use so-called secondary cuts such as shin, flank, cheeks, etc. In fact, they are not really secondary cuts at all; to some, they have more flavour than many of the prime cuts. This recipe is for smaller individual pies (about 15cms in diameter), but you can adapt it to make one large pie. Most good butchers would be happy to part with these cuts or you could order them from donaldrussell.com.
900g trimmed beef shin or ox cheek or flank, cut into rough 3cm cubes
200ml porter or Guinness
Vegetable oil, to fry
2tbsp plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1tsp chopped thyme leaves
1tsp tomato purée
1 small bay leaf
1.5 litres beef stock
12 oysters, 8 removed from the shell and 4 left in the half shell
For the parsley crust
2tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
1tbsp chopped parsley
A good knob of butter
For the pastry
225g self-raising flour
85g shredded beef suet
60g butter, chilled and coarsely grated
1 medium egg beaten to glaze
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Heat the vegetable oil in a large, heavy frying pan or saucepan, lightly flour the meat with some of the flour and season with salt and pepper. Fry the meat in 2 or 3 batches over a high heat until nicely browned then put to one side.
Fry the onions and garlic for a few minutes until lightly coloured, then add the remaining flour and tomato purée and stir over a low heat for a minute or so. Slowly add the porter and beef stock, stirring constantly to avoid lumps forming. Add thyme, bay leaf and the pieces of beef, bring back to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer gently with a lid on for about 2 hours or until the meat is tender.
When the meat is cooked, the sauce should have thickened to a gravy-like consistency. If not, mix a little cornflour to a paste with some water, stir into the sauce and simmer for a few minutes. Let the mixture cool down and use to fill the pie dishes (or single dish) to about 1cm from the top.
To make the pastry, mix the flour and salt with the suet and grated butter. Mix in about 150-175ml water to form a smooth dough and knead it for a minute. Roll the pastry on a floured table to about ¾cm thick and cut out to about 2cm larger all the way round than the pie dishes (or dish) with a slit or hole in the middle for the oyster. Brush the edges of the pastry with a little of the beaten egg and lay the pastry on top, pressing the egg-washed sides against the rim of the dish. Cut a 2cm hole in the centre but leave the pastry attached so you can drop the oysters in when cooked then brush with beaten egg.
Leave to rest in a cool place for 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 200C (fan oven 180C)/ gas mark 6 and cook the pie for 40-50 minutes, or until the pastry is golden.
To make the parsley crust just melt the butter in a pan and mix the crumbs and parsley in and season. To serve remove the pastry disc and insert a couple of shucked oysters and return to the oven for 10 minutes. Scatter the 4 oysters in the shell with the parsley crust and grill until golden then place over the hole.
Hix Oyster and Chop House, 36-37 Greenhill Rents, Cowcross Street, London EC1 (020-7017 9130; www.restaurantsetcltd.com)
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