A Trick of the Tail

There’s nothing like a bracing meat pie to get you through the winter cold. My search for a traditional steak and kidney version led me to this Heston Blumenthal recipe, which struck the proper balance between fussy and overly simple. He substitutes oxtail for steak, which results in a more deeply flavored final product. Since I live near a market that doesn’t criminally mark up the price of oxtail, I decided to give it a try.

I began with typical braising ingredients (mirepoix, herbs) augmented by Blumenthal’s go-to umami enhancers (mushrooms, tomatoes, star anise).

Mise en place

All of the vegetables got a good sweat


followed by a pretty pan deglazing.


After a few hours in a pressure cooker, I wound up with a thick sauce and tender oxtail. Separating the meat from the bones was very sticky work due to the amount of gelatin rendered out – that’s a good thing

Meat & Bones

The most time-consuming part of the entire process was shredding a half pound of frozen beef suet on a box grater to make it fine enough to incorporate into a dough.

Mise en Place 2

While I let the brain-like dough lump rest,


I turned my attention to the veal kidney, also available on the cheap from the neighborhood market.


I chopped the kidney, mixed it with the oxtail and some of the reserved sauce, then added it to my dough-lined pudding basins. I learned that plastic pudding basins are a thing in the UK not available here, so I used pyrex pudding bowls instead.


I covered the tops with more dough and sealed the edges. Each dish was then covered with a square of parchment paper secured with a silicone band.


The only pan I had that would hold six bowls wasn’t deep enough to let me cover with a lid while the puddings steamed. My cooked puddings were still almost raw on top, but a quick trip into the 500 °F oven in which I was roasting sprouts solved that problem.


Once the puddings were unmolded and plated, I injected each with a therapeutic dose of sauce (roughly calculated to be about 100 ml/pudding).


I served the puddings with roasted sprouts and mashed potatoes.

Final Plate

Those little pudding packed a whole lot of flavor, so intensely meaty that I couldn’t imagine eating a larger portion. The mash, by comparison, seemed like a light accompaniment, but absolutely necessary to absorb every stray bit of the perfect sauce. He Who Will Not Be Ignored declared the pudding to be “better than those pies we had at the Tower of London.” High praise, coming from a connoisseur of tourist fare.

I plan on making these again soon, but will use a foil-covered roasting pan for the steaming step to ensure that the tops (which wind up as the bottoms) are properly cooked. And if anyone can point me to a source of plastic 1/4 pint pudding basins, I’ll happily return the favor with some charcuterie.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A Trick of the Tail

  1. iliana says:

    Very nice, David! I loved this recipe myself, minus the whole fire-department thing. Okay, I take that back –I also enjoyed the firemen : -)

  2. iliana says:

    Wow, you are GOOD.

    ; -)

  3. Sybarite says:

    Challenge accepted (albeit with exorbitant shipping fees)!


    Apparently no one on the American Amazon site sells .25 pint pudding basins… Odd. There is a 1/2 pint version on offer:

    A vendor on eBay, but I don’t know if they offer combined shipping:

    Wow, this is one of the few times I have not been able to find something easily online… Impressive. Oh well, I have far exceeded the time allotted for procrastination! Good luck in fulfilling your pudding dreams, and thank you for the pleasant distraction!

Comments are closed.