Chef - Tom Cockerill

Ark of Taste Product - Colchester Oyster

Producer - Richard Haworth

''Large scale cultivation of oysters towards the end of the 18th Century meant they were cheap & abundant and often used to bulk out meat dishes such as pies. The firm meaty flesh of the native Colchester oyster lends itself well to this use although its present scarcity means their addition is more of an indulgence! We’ve used some amazing grass reared Dexter from our family farm in Yorkshire to go together with these fabulous briny oysters. This recipe could also be used to fill a steamed suet pudding as an alternative winter warming dish.'' Tom Cockerill

''We have a farm near the North Yorkshire Moors which is ideal for this sort of beef system. It is marginal land, with  a mix of hardy native grasses and herbs  rather than the chemically 'improved' pastures  found on most lowland farms. Most of our animals are finished at between 24 and 27 months old. They are slaughtered  at a small local slaughterhouse just down the road and are then hung for 21-28 days before being jointed. All this would be pointless if the meat was not then treated with the respect it deserved, but fortunately, in my son Tom, I have produced a  chef who knows exactly how to turn my beef into dishes that defy  superlatives! '' Pamella Cockerill


For the Filling

– Cut the chuck steak into thick pieces. Season half the flour with salt and pepper before tossing the diced beef in it. Knock off any excess flour.

– Place a large cassarole dish over a high heat. When hot, add the vegetable oil and brown the beef.

– Remove the casserole dish from the heat and remove and reserve the beef.

– Return the pan to the heat (and add a little more oil if needed) and fry off the carrots, then add onions and garlic. Cook until soft but not coloured.

– Add the beef back to the casserole dish together with the tomato puree, Guinness, beef stock & herbs.

– Cover the casserole & place in a preheated oven at 140°C for 3 hrs.

– Remove the casserole from the oven.

– To thicken the stock start by cooking out the remaining flour & butter together in a saucepan over a moderate heat for two to three minutes to make a roux.

– Carefully strain out the braising liquor by pouring through a fine sieve and gradually whisk this into the roux, and gently cook until thickened. Add salt & pepper to taste, before adding back to the casserole.


For the smoked oysters

– Carefully open the oysters, taking care to keep as much juice in the half-shell as possible.

– If you have your own smoker, you can use your intuition here. The idea is to gently hot smoke the oysters to impart a smoky flavour without drying them out. This will generally take only a few minutes.

If you don’t have your own smoker, you can improvise; a large saucepan with a wire cooling rack over the top will work just as well. Place a thin layer of wood shavings in the saucepan and place over a high heat until the wood begins smoking, place the oysters on the cooling rack and place on top of the smoking pan. Remove from the heat and cover the whole arrangement with tinfoil, sealing tightly around the rim of the saucepan but leaving a domed shape above the oysters to allow the smoke to circulate. Use a pair of scissors to snip a small hole at the top of the dome to act as a chimney.

– After 5 minutes or so, the oysters should have take on a yellowish tinge from the smoke, yet still be moist. It may be necessary to do this in 2 or 3 batches.


To make the pies

– Divide the steak filling between 4 individual earthenware pie dishes. Add three smoked oysters to each dish along with any smoky juice remaining in the shells. Take care not to get any shell fragments in the pies.

– Divide the puff pastry into four pieces and roll out to 2-3mm thickness. Apply a little beaten egg around the rim of each pie dish to help the pastry to adhere. Carefully cover each pie with the pastry and trim off any excess. Brush the pie lids with the remaining beaten egg & score with a sharp knife.

– Place the pies in the oven at 180°C for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is risen and golden.

Ingredients (Serves 4 as individual pies)

250g Butter puff pastry 1 Egg,beaten

Applewood shavings for smoking 12 Oysters 50g plain flour 25ml veg oil 1kg chuck steak 50g butter 2 Cloves garlic, finely chopped 2 Spanish onions, finely chopped 2 carrots finely diced 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce 2 tsp tomato puree 600ml Guinness 300ml fresh beef stock 1 tsp picked thyme leaves 1 bay leaf Salt and ground pepper