This is a super easy recipe, yet produces something that even Desperate Dan would go wild for (and we know that man has high standards). It has delicate spicing so the beef can speak for itself.
4 tbsp vegetable oil
750g oxtail, cut into 5cm wide rounds
1.5 kg beef shin, cut into 3cm chunks, bone reserved and scrubbed (optional)
1 heaped tbsp flour
3 onions, sliced
1 tin anchovies (approx. 8 fillets)
3 celery sticks, thickly sliced on the diagonal
5 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced on the diagonal
Cloves of 1 bulb garlic, peeled
4 bay leaves
1/2 small bunch of thyme, leaves picked
1 tin plum tomatoes, drained and rinsed
1 star anise
400ml beef stock
For the pastry
450g self-raising flour
200g cold butter, cut into cubes (or sub in suet)
2 egg yolk
In a wide deep pan with a lid, heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil over a medium high heat. Lightly salt the oxtail, then brown on all sides (you may need to do this in batches); remove. Take the pan off the heat for a moment.
Scatter the flour over a large plate and season generously with salt and pepper. Toss the shin in the flour and shake off any excess. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and when it's hot again, brown the shin on all sides (again, might need to do batches); remove.
Add the remaining oil to the pan and add the onions and a good pinch of salt. Use your spoon to scrape up any golden sticky bits on bottom of pan. Cook for 5 minutes until softened, then add the anchovies - wait a minute - then add the celery, carrots, garlic, bay and thyme.
Cook for a further 5 minutes, then add the remaining ingredients. Season with plenty of pepper (but not salt at this stage), then bring to the boil and cook for a minute or so. Return the beef and its resting juices to the pan and turn the heat down to a very low simmer (or you can put it into a 150C oven). Cover partially with a lid, and leave for 2 1/2 - 3 hours until the meat is falling off the oxtail and the shin is lovely and soft.
Meanwhile, combine the flour and butter with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs (or use a food processor), then add one of the yolks and a teaspoon of salt, followed by a few tablespoons of cold water until the pastry just comes together. Knead it for a few moments, then roll out to a size just larger than your pie dish, wrap in clingfilm and place in fridge until you're ready.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Scoop out the oxtail from the stew and pick off any meat before discarding the bones. Transfer the meat to your chosen pie dish. Scoop in the beef shin and reduce the sauce (if it needs it) so that it only just covers the meat. Place the beef shin bone (or blackbird) in the middle and drape the pastry over, crimping it to the sides of the dish. Brush the pastry in the remaining egg yolk, then place in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden. Leave to cool for a moment, then serve with greens.