In the 17th and 18th centuries, in the colonies in particular, the prime cuts of beef were the preserve of the landed gentry and plantation owners and the hired hands and slaves had to make do with what was known as the “fifth quarters”, the head, feet, tail, internal organs and skin. In the home country, these parts of the cow were similarly used by the less wealthy and in Lancashire in particular, cow’s foot stew became a firm favourite if ox tail was unavailable or scarce because it was more readily available based on the fact alone that there are 4 of them rather than one!
In the UK, cow heel pie was slightly hijacked from 1937 onwards, by Dudley D Watkins (until his death in 1967 and by numerous other artists since) for his character, Desperate Dan, for the British comic magazine, The Dandy. The original character was an outlaw but gradually developed into a more sympathetic Robin Hood type, who was the strongest man in the world and used his strength to help the underdog. He could lift a cow with one hand, shaved, because his beard was so tough, using a blowtorch and famously eat his favourite food, his version of Cow (Foot) Pie, which was a huge meat pie with cow horns sticking out of the top!
Many Georgian and Regency dishes using the “fifth quarters” were particularly economical to prepare because the stock used to boil the cow’s foot could then be used to make jelly and the boiled heel could then be eaten, skin and all. Our ancestors were thrifty and practical. So here, lovely reader, is our take on the traditional Lancastrian favourite, cow heel or cow foot pie or even fetlock pie. It’s not essential if you’re particularly squeamish to add the cow foot to the dish,however, it does help with flavour and acts a great thickener for the gravy. If you are still looking for that additional richness sans foot, then marrow bone works just as well.
 Cow Heel Pie ( serves 6) 


  • 2.5 llb of Shin of beef, cubed
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1.5 litres of good beef stock
  • 1 Cows foot ( ask at your local butcher) or Marrow Bone
  • A couple of sprigs or thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 sheets of puff pastry
  • 1 egg, to brush the pie


  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 2 / 150oc
  2. Place the onion and beef in a heavy base casserole and brown, remove, then deglaze casserole dish with the hot stock.
  3. Place the meat and onion back in the stock add the thyme, cow foot and season. Put the lid on and cook slowly for 2 hours, until the beef melts in the mouth.
  4. Remove from the oven, check the seasoning, place to one side.
  5. Turn up the oven to to gas mark 5/ 190oc.
  6. In the meantime roll out the pastry and place one half in the bottom of a pie dish then and trim ( allowing for some shrinkage) ladle in the beef, minus the cow foot and then place the pastry lid on the top.
  7. Crimp the trimmed edges, then beat an egg in a mug and brush the entire pie with egg wash, this gives it a rich golden brown colour.
  8. Place pie in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes or until golden.
  9. Remove then allow to rest for a few moments before cutting into it and serving.