Monday 28 October 2013

Steak and stout pie

There's a storm brewin'.

Actually, it's already been and gone, and as the picture below shows, caused absolute CHAOS to the streets of London.

Still, whilst it's wet and cold and blowy and autumnal, we'll carry on the theme of warming, comfort food.  Last week it was toad in the hole.  This week, it's steak and stout pie.  Perfect for when it's belting it down outside and you want to wrap yourself up in a blanket and watch endless repeats of old crap on telly.

This is also a really easy recipe that requires (a) no flour dredging (there's a cheat later that avoids this) and (b) no browning of the meat, both of which take ages and are a faff to do.  Fortunately, the absence of both these elements doesn’t seem to compromise the pie one bit.

A word to the wise, however: this massively benefits from being allowed to cool down and sit in the fridge overnight.  It also takes an unreasonably long time to cook.  So plan ahead.


1.2kg cow (Kinda up to you what you put in – brisket, stewing steak, ox cheek, shin, whatever you like.  I used plain old casserole steak.)
500ml stout (I used Guinness.  I reckon you could use any ale, however, or even red wine.)
200g button chestnut mushrooms
x3 onions
x2 carrots
x2 sticks of celery
x3 cloves of garlic
x4 sprigs of rosemary
2tsp grainy mustard
2tbsp plain flour
x1 stock cube (Or, better still, 500ml fresh cow stock.  Up to you – but you will need the additional liquid, as I learnt...)

Ready-rolled puff pastry (Because life's too short to make your own pie crusts.  Genuinely.)
x1 free-range egg

1. Start by chopping all your veg.  No, actually, start by pre-heating the oven to 190°C.  Now get chopping. 

None of needs to be finely chopped, just into decent suitably pie-sized lumps.  I reckon a little smaller than the cow chunks will be.  The mushrooms I quartered, because they shrink a bit and I like big lumps of mushroom with this dish.  You can mix your carrots, mushrooms and celery sticks together, but keep the onions ghettoised.  Same goes for the garlic (slice this) and the rosemary (separate the leaves and chop finely).

2. Sweat the onions for 10 mins or so in a bloody great big cast iron pan.  Or whatever you'd normally make a stew in.  Keep going until them onions are nice and soft, but not browned.  A low heat should do the trick.

3. Turn the heat right up and thrown in the carrots, 'shrooms and celery, giving everything an almighty stir and season liberally with pepper and less liberally with salt (remember: you're adding a stock cube and/or stock to this, which is quite salty in itself, so go easy on the salt at this stage – you can always adjust later). 

Cook for a few minutes.  Or not.  Whatever.

4. Chuck in the steak, garlic and rosemary and cook for a bit, so that the meat is beginning to colour.  This shouldn’t take long. 

5. When you're happy, add the stout.  It'll fizz up like crazy, but fear not: it'll settle down before long. 

Add the mustard, sprinkle the flour in, and crumble the stock cube in now, if you're using it.   Boil a kettle and top up with boiling water so that the meat's covered – it you're using beef stock, warm it and add it now instead of the hot water – but again, only so that the meat's covered. 

6. Give it an almighty great stir, stick a lid on the pot and bung it in the oven for about an hour.  By the way, you might find that the four clumps up into rather unappealling, gluely lumps.  Fret not - these will magically disappear in the cooking, somehow.

7. Get it out, give it another stir, and have a look.  First, there should be lots of mucky brown crap stuck to the sides.  Good.  This is the flavour, so do your best to scrape it off with a spoon and reintroduce it to its friends in the stew.  Second, check the moisture levels.  I found that mine dried out quite quickly, which isn’t a problem – it just means you need to keep adding more liquid – kettle water will do it, honestly.  Cover it again and get it back in the oven to give it another hour.

8. Lather, rinse, repeat.  Well, get out, scrape, stir, check moisture levels.  Also, try a bit of the beef now – see how tender it is.  It should be fall-apart-in-your-mouth soft, not chewy.  Mine took three hours altogether, and could perhaps have done with a touch more.  From here on in I recommend testing it every 30-40 minutes – adding more water each time if it’s looking a little dry.  As for dryness, well, you know what the inside of a pie looks like, right?

9. Once it's done, leave it to cool and stick in the fridge overnight.  Apart from the fact that this'll let all the lovely flavours marinate and mix better, it'll also mean that the filling is cool when you want to make your pie, which will make life a lot, lot easier.  Get it out before making the pie, though, so that the filling is at room temperature when you stick the lid on.

10. Doing the lid is easy, because I told you to get ready rolled puff pastry.  If you want to make your own pastry, go and read someone else's blog – like someone who knows how to bake (I am a terrible baker).  I have tried handmade puff pastry and I have tried Sainsbury's pastry puff, and whilst I recognise that there is a difference and that the handmade stuff is better, I simply cannot be bothered with it – simply because the difference is so minor.

Unroll your pastry and stick the pie dish on it upside down.  Trace a line around the dish, leaving about a centimetre of overhang.  Like this. 

Keep the scraps, too – you'll need them.

11. Fill the dish up with filling and gravy, until it's about a half centimetre from the top. Pop the lid on and pinch all the way around the edges to make sure the lid stays in place.  Carve a little cross in the middle to let the steam out. 

Also, decorate it – that's what the pastry scraps are for.  I was a bit rushed, so it was just leaves.  But it's bad luck not to decorate it.  The tradition comes from big, old houses (think Downton Abbey) where they would have a weekly baking day, making all manner of pies.  To ensure that there was no confusion, and that the lord of the manor was not accidently served kidney and trotter pasty when he was expecting a mouthful of apple and bramble pudding, savoury pies were decorated whilst sweet pies were just sprinkled with sugar.  Preserve the tradition and stick a blooming leaf on there.

The crust needs to be egged.  So break an egg into a glass or cup, beat it up with a fork, and use a pasrty brush to paint it all.  All of it, not just bits.  It'll only turn nice and shiny where it's been painted, so get in all the nooks and crannies.  Also, top tip: paint the lid then put the decorations on - it'll help them stick down. 

12. Pie in oven, please.  It'll take 30 mins, no more – just check that your pastry looks crispy and golden. 

So, basically, it goes in like this...

...and comes out like this.

Serve it up with peas, or your favourite winter veg.  Draw the curtains, get the fire going, turn on some ancient, Sunday afternoon TV film, pour yourself a glass of something red and dark, and tuck in.  See, the weather's not so bad now, is it?

 - GrubsterBoy -

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