In this recipe, Adam Byatt elevates the humble cottage pie to a thing of beauty, braising sumptuous ox cheeks in porter for a heady depth of flavour. Each element of the dish, from the star anise infused carrots to the sweet caramelised onions, are treated with the utmost care. The bone is not just for decoration – as the pie cooks, rich and beefy bone marrow melts into the filling.
Adam Byatt is a creative and accomplished chef with a passion for British food. Starting his career aged sixteen, Adam has earnt a reputation for honest cooking, designed to showcase the very best local produce
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To begin, cut the ox cheeks into four large pieces and remove any sinew
1.5kg ox cheek, dry aged
Chop 1 of the carrots and the trimmed leek into a rough dice. Pick the leaves from half of the thyme, leaving the remaining sprigs whole. Set aside
1 carrot, peeled
1/2 leek, trimmed
1/4 bunch of thyme
Add a drizzle of vegetable oil to a saucepan over a medium heat and add the onions. Fry gently without any seasoning as you want the onions to caramelise completely – this will take up to 20 minutes. Once ready, set aside until ready to assemble the pie
3 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
Thinly slice the 2 remaining carrots. Add a dash of vegetable oil to a large pan and place over a high heat. Add the carrots, season with salt (to prevent the carrots from colouring too quickly) and add the star anise to the pan
2 carrots, peeled
2 star anise
Cook for 2 minutes, then turn the heat down to medium and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until the carrots just start to soften
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4
Scatter a layer of rock salt onto the base of a baking dish or tray and place the potatoes on top. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes
2 Désirée potatoes
While the potatoes are cooking, add the butter and milk to a pan and bring just to the boil. Once the potatoes are cooked, slice in half, scoop out the flesh into a bowl and mash until smooth. Alternatively, pass through a mouli or potato ricer
40g of butter
100ml of milk
Beat the hot butter and milk mix into the potato, then season to taste. Scoop the mash into a piping bag and set aside at room temperature until ready to use
black pepper, freshly ground
Add a splash of vegetable oil to a large, flame-proof casserole dish and place over a medium heat until very hot. Lightly season the ox cheeks with salt and pepper, place in the pan and colour lightly all over. Remove from the dish and set aside on a wire rack placed over a tray
Return the dish to a medium heat and add the roughly chopped carrot and leek from step 2. Stir in the peppercorns, garlic and thyme sprigs and cook for 5 minutes, until golden
5g of peppercorns
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1/4 bunch of thyme
Pour the porter into the dish and allow to reduce by three quarters. Return the ox cheek pieces to the pan with any juices that have gathered in the resting tray, cover with the stock and bring to a simmer
1.5l chicken stock
250ml of porter
As it simmers, skim away any impurities that gather on the surface of the liquid with a spoon. Place a cartouche (parchment paper circle) on the surface of the liquid and place in the oven for 3 hours, until the meat is meltingly tender
Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow the meat to cool in the dish. Remove the meat from the dish, set aside, then pass the cooking liquid through a fine sieve. Add the liquid to a clean pan and reduce by half, skimming off any impurities as it simmers
Using your fingers, shred the meat into long strips and combine the meat with the reduced cooking liquid and the reserved thyme leaves. Divide the ox cheek between 2 oven-proof serving dishes. Add a layer of caramelised onions, followed by the carrots (minus the star anise). As you build the layers, leave some room in the centre. Once built, push the bone marrow vertically into the centre of each dish
Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7
Pipe the mash around the bone marrow, covering the filling. Push some rosemary sprigs into the bone marrow
2 centre-cut beef marrow bones, 10cm long and cleaned of any sinew
1/2 bunch of rosemary
Place in the oven for 12 minutes until the mash is golden. Remove from the oven, and for extra flare, set fire to the rosemary to serve
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