I won’t lie to you, this recipe is a bit of a cooking project, it requires time, love and little patience, but if it’s flavour and relish you’re after then this is a recipe you must try.
Cottage Pie is one of those classic home cooked dishes that I’m sure everyone has their own nuances as to how they make it. My own personal nuance when it comes to Cottage Pie is to use Oxtail.
Oxtail is not a very popular cut of meat these days, and you’ll only get it in old school butchers if you ask especially. There is a lot of goodness to be extracted from this cheap cut. All that swishing about all day means tender meat, with the added bonus of sinew, gelatine and marrow from the central tail bone, which melts and breakdowns into the cooking liquor.
By treating the Oxtail with a low temperature over four hours, with lots of aromatics in a bath of red wine, the end result is meat that is rich and extremely tender. This kind of cooking is about taking a modest cut and turning it into a divine essence of beef flavour that people have forgotten. Reacquaint yourself with Oxtail and wallow in pure comfort food. Celebrate the off cuts and get amongst the offal!
Ingredients for the slow cooked Oxtail:
2 large Oxtails (2.5kg) cut into segments by the butcher
2 large carrots chopped into chunks
2 large onions peeled, each studded with 2 cloves
3 sticks of celery chopped into chunks
2 Bay leaves
1 bunch of Thyme
1 bunch of Parsley
1 bottle of good red wine
Salt and pepper
Ingredients for the Cottage Pie:
The meat and juices from the slow cooked Oxtail
250g of streaky bacon
1 large onion finely chopped
2 large carrots grated
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp Lea and Perrin’s
600g floury potatoes
3 tbsp Milk
Grated Mature Cheddar cheese
Salt and Pepper
The first stage in this dish is to slowly cook the Oxtail, and then leave overnight in the cooking juices, to allow the ingredients to mingle and the flavour to deepen.
Rub olive oil, salt and pepper all over the Oxtail pieces, then in a large casserole on top of the oven melt a thick slice of butter. When the butter begins to to froth add the Oxtail pieces, and brown them all over. When all the Oxtail pieces are evenly coloured in a light golden brown add in the carrots, onions with cloves, celery, peppercorns, Bay, Thyme and Parsley.
Stir all the ingredients together and pour in the whole bottle of red wine. Add in enough water so that all the ingredients are covered in liquid.
Cover the casserole and place in a low oven at 140 degrees C for four hours and allow to blip and bubble gently. After four hours the meat on the Oxtail should be falling from the bone. Allow to cool and then keep in the fridge over night.
The next day to make the Cottage Pie, first strip all the meat from the Oxtail pieces and shred with your fingers, strain all the other ingredients and save the cooking juices in a bowl.
In a large frying pan heat some olive oil over a medium heat and add the chopped streaky bacon, allow to fry for five minutes until it begins to become crispy, then add the finely chopped onion and grated carrots. Allow the vegetables to sweat down for a further five minutes, then add the Oxtail meat, the tomato puree, the Lea and Perrin’s, season with salt and pepper, and gently cook through for another 15 minutes on a medium heat.
While the pie filling is cooking, boil the Oxtail cooking juices from the casserole and allow to reduce by half. Once you have reduced the liquid, add this to the pan of pie filling, and cook for about another 10 minutes. The pie filling should be rich and thick, moist, but not too runny.
Check the seasoning and adjust if required, then place in an oven proof pie dish. Make some mashed potato, with the potatoes, milk and a good slice of butter. Season to taste. Cover the Oxtail pie filling with the mash, top with grated cheese and finish in a hot oven (180 degrees C), until the mash turns golden brown, about 45 minutes.
Serve with some hot buttered Kale or Savoy Cabbage and a cold glass of craft Irish Pale Ale. This dish makes me a happy man!