Bangin’ books: Men’s Pie Manual, plus a hearty oxtail and beef cheek pie

Mens Pie Manual

If you’re looking for a gift for the foodie bloke in your life, can I recommend this latest title from Haynes. Yes, that’s right. Haynes, as in the publisher of the popular car manuals.

Following on from their success with the Haynes Baby Manual , they’re now taking a foray into the world of cookbooks, namely in the form of manly pies. The Men’s Pie Manual is written by food journalist and author, Andy Webb, who has also been a judge at the British Pie Awards since 2011, so he should know a good pie when he sees one.

They’ve got the look and tone of the Men’s Pie Manual just right – that 70s DIY manual feel is all there. And with a quote on the cover from the blokiest of TV chefs, the gert lush Tom Kerridge, Haynes clearly feel there’s a booming market out there for lads, as opposed to chaps, in the kitchen.

While he’s not what I’d call a lad, although he does appreciate proper old fashioned grub, it made sense for my husband Jason to give this cookbook its road test. Jason’s a dab hand in the kitchen but he’s definitely out of his comfort zone when it comes to things like pies and pastry. So, a good person to put this book through its paces.

I was interested to see which pie he’d choose. A classic Beef & Ale Pie perhaps, or a Melton Mowbray Pork Pie? I rather liked the sound of the Crab Pot Pies, but since Jason doesn’t eat fish, I knew that wasn’t a contender. I’d have actually put money on him going for the Fry-up Pie, filled with all those goodies you’d usually find in a full English.

But no, I was completely wrong. Jason decided to try out the recipe for an Oxtail and Ox Cheek Pie, which sounded like it should be cheap as chips to make, yet he ended up spending £18 on the meat alone. I suspect this recipe wasn’t as well-tested before publication as it should have been, as we discovered once he’d slow cooked the filling ingredients, he had three-times as much as he needed for a single pie. The photo alongside the recipe was also a little misleading, as it featured ingredients, such as garlic and rosemary, not mentioned in the recipe itself.

But those two points aside, the final pie was a triumph. It was absolutely delicious and a hit with all the family. (We didn’t tell the girls exactly what meat the pie contained until they’d eaten it.) The shortcrust pastry was superbly short, not surprising since it was made from both butter and lard, and the ale-enriched beef cheek and oxtail were sumptuously tender, although Jason did end up having to leave it in the oven much longer than the recipe instructed.

oxtail and beef cheek pie

While not perfect, the Men’s Pie Manual is a bit of fun and an ideal gift for men (and women too) who have a penchant for pies, but ideally those who already have a bit of kitchen experience behind them and are of a methodical nature. There are some excellent tips in here, such as chilling your work surface before rolling out pastry, using a tray filled with ice, and a simple lesson in how to make a simple gravy without resorting granules.

And being a manual, there are of course chapters with detailed instructions on such things as Tools of the Trade, Making Pastry, Stocks and Sauces, and Accompaniments.

If you fancy a go at this extremely satisfying Oxtail and Beef Cheek Pie, here’s the recipe. Just remember, you’ll end up with three-times as much filling as you’ll need for one 22cm pie tin, so freeze the rest for another day.

oxtail and beef cheek pie text

Oxtail and beef cheek pie

Serves 6 – with enough filling for an extra two pies

6 ox cheeks (we only used 4)
3 or 4 pieces of oxtail
2 onions, diced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into big chunks
1 stick of celery, diced
1 bottle of ale (a dark, flavourful one like porter or stout)
200ml beef stock
½ tsp thyme leaves
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
a few dried prunes
1 tbsp redcurrant jelly
oil for frying (beef dripping is even better if you have some)
40g seasoned flour
1 egg, beaten

For the shortcrust pastry

400g plain flour
100g butter, diced (at room temperature)
100g lard, diced (at room temperature)
pinch of salt
a few tbsp cold water

Cut each cheek in two, then put in a large bowl along with the oxtail and pour over the ale. Leave to marinate in the fridge overnight.

Preheat the oven to 140°C / gas mark 1..

Remove the meat from the bowl, reserving the marinade. Pat dry with kitchen towel and dust in seasoned flour.

Heat the oil in a casserole and brown the oxtail and cheeks. Remove and set aside.

In the same pan, gently cook the onion, carrot and celery until soft and translucent.

Add the meat back to the pan, and add the beer marinade and stock to cover it. Add the thyme, prunes, redcurrant jelly and Worcestershire sauce.

Make a cartouche from a circle of greaseproof paper to cover the surface. Place in the oven for 2½ hours until the meat is tender. (We had to leave ours for 4 hours!)

Meanwhile, make the pastry. Sieve the flour into a large bowl and add the butter, lard and a pinch of salt.

Rub together quickly. It doesn’t need to be uniform, you’re simply coating the fat in flour. Big lumps of butter is a good thing for shortcrust pastry.

Add a tablespoon or two of very cold water and gently combine. If it looks a little dry, add another.

Bring together into a ball, squash it a little, and put in a sandwich bag in the fridge until you need it.

When the meat is tender, remove the casserole from the oven and lift out the meat and set aside to cool. Flake off any meat that’s still stuck to the bones, and return it to the pan. Discard the bones. Leave the pie filling to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.

Cut off a third of the pastry for the lid and roll out the remainder on a floured surface. Line your pie tin with the pastry and add the cold filling.

Brush egg wash around the edge of the pie tin. Roll out the lid and place on top. Trim and crimp the edge and brush the lid with more egg.

Cook in the oven for around 25 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden.

Serve with lots of buttery mash, vegetables and gravy.

The Haynes Men’s Pie Manual is available from priced £21.99.

Disclosure: I was sent a complimentary copy of the Men’s Pie Manual from Haynes for review purposes. No money exchanged hands and all opinions expressed are my own.

3 thoughts on “Bangin’ books: Men’s Pie Manual, plus a hearty oxtail and beef cheek pie

  1. The pie does look fabulous but a manual that contains the wrong instructions? I think you’ve been quite generous – sounds as though they should have stuck to Mk II Cortinas.

    1. I didn’t want to be too critical after trying just one recipe but I was surprised at just how wrong the quantities seemed to be for the filling. Still, made for some lovely easy meals eating up the leftovers. Will let you know how I get on with the next recipe I try…

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