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Oxtail Stout Pot Pies

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I have always loved books. Every school vacation was an opportunity for me to go to the lending library(we don’t have tax sponsored free libraries in India), borrow a pile of books that I would happily bury my nose in all Summer. I got lost in the fiction. I imagined the characters and the scenes vividly as I read them. I always had an intense imagination! I also had a budget that I was allowed to spend at the library. So, it was always about choosing books and comics to stretch that allowance. Honestly, I don’t think if I had run over by a few rupees, I was would have been denied the book by my parents, but I don’t remember being tempted to test that at all {yes, I know. I was a non-confrontational kid. Made up for it in adult life just fine. LOL}.

Anyway, many of the books I read as a child were by the British author Enid Blyton - Famous Five and Secret Seven series. I loved them! These kids were having so much fun and solving mysteries to boot! I lived vicariously through their fictitious adventures. But, sprinkled liberally in these books were mentions of British foods! Pies, jams, puddings, teas .. so much more. These books are also where my love for the rolling hills of English countryside began. I would picture the picnics this amazing kids had and how delicious the homemade delicacies would taste. I had at this point, never seen a pie - the only food item I could actually share any real knowledge of was cake. Yet, it did not stop my imagination.

Since then, I have developed a lifelong reverence of pies - sweet at first. But, as I grew older and got into more classics and Victorian/Edwardian fiction, the savory kinds. Bakewell tarts, Spotted dicks, cherry pies, steak and kidney pies, stout pies … I loved them all even before I had tasted them, nay even seen them! I loved the idea of the rich crust or butter enriched pastry enclosing something so delicious! It was pocket of happiness, you could carry with you! What’s not to love….

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And, then when I finally tasted them, it just added to my conviction that British food was simply the best! That is ofcourse, until I ate other kinds. To this day, though, these pies hold a special place in my soul; because they are indeed very fulfilling, satisfying, nourishing and comforting.

Since then, I have developed a lifelong reverence of pies - sweet at first. But, as I grew older and got into more classics and Victorian/Edwardian fiction, the savory kinds. I imagined the balls, the romantic walks in the chill of winter, the hunting rides and all coming back to steaming pies and finger sandwiches and hot tea! Ah, such a life….! :)

Bakewell tarts, Spotted dicks, cherry pies, steak and kidney pies, stout pies … I loved them all even before I had tasted them, nay even seen them! I loved the idea of the rich crust or butter enriched pastry enclosing something so delicious! It was pocket of happiness, you could carry with you! What’s not to love….

And, then when I finally tasted them, it just added to my conviction that British food was simply the best! That is ofcourse, until I ate other kinds. To this day, though, these pies hold a special place in my soul; because they are indeed very fulfilling, satisfying, nourishing and comforting.

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I often make savory pies and tarts. It is the easiest way to use up bits and bobs of stuff. Yet, I rarely set out to make a proper filling meant to go into a pie such as this. I mean, I would make chicken pot pie because I had left over roast chicken or beef pie because there was some stew left, not enough to make a meal of it but enough to make into something else.

This time I decided, I would honor the dish as it deserves. So I bought the oxtail and stout with the express purpose of making these pies. That was jolly good idea, indeed! And, perfect for the weather we are having. Just a touch cold here. :)

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Oxtail Stout Pot Pies

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For the Pastry

1-3/4 cups flour

8 T lard

4 T cold butter

1 sprig of rosemary, leaves minced

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

For the Filling

1 lb oxtail

1 bottle of rich stout {I recommend Irish style or chocolate stouts}

2 cups broth

1 medium yellow onion, diced fine

5 cloves of garlic, minced

2 medium carrots, diced into 1/2 inch cubes

4 medium potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch cubes

3/4 cup frozen peas

handful of parsley chopped

pinch of cayenne pepper

generous amounts of fresh black pepper

1 egg +1 tsp water for egg wash

salt and oil as needed

Make the filling

Brown the oxtail pieces on all sides. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until soft. Add the stout and and one cup of broth and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and either cook on low on the stovetop for 3 hours or in the oven at 350F for 3 hours or more, until the meat falls off the bone. It is preferable if you can let this dish sit it in the sauce overnight to absorb the flavors. But, you can proceed to the next step in the same day as well.

Gently shred the meat and reserve the bones to make stock. Bring the dish back to a gentle heat and add in carrots and potatoes, the remaining cup of broth and spices. Cook for 20 or so minutes until the vegetables are fully cooked. Toss in the frozen peas and remove from heat. Reserve or refrigerate till assembly time.

To make the pastry, sift together the flour, baking powder, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Rub in the lard and cold butter until the mixture resembles a crumbly texture. Working quickly bring everything together into a formed ball. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for atleast 45 minutes upto 3 days.

If left longer than an hour, thaw on the counter for 30 minutes, away from any source of heat, before working the dough.

Divide the dough into roughly 2/3 and a 1/3 portions. If you are making one large pie, roll out the larger portion for the base and the other for the top. If making 4 single serves, divide each portion into 4 balls and do the same with the larger and smaller pieces of dough.

Line the molds with appropriate pastry, allowing for a little overhang and fill generously with the oxtail mix. Top with a pastry round and fold over the overhang and crimp to seal the edges. Brush the tops with egg wash.

Bake in an oven preheated to 375F for 20-30 minutes until crust is gently puffed and golden.

Serve hot, warm or cold for main or with salad.


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