Steak & Stout Pie
a life of pies…the pie of life… pies are squared? so comfortingly satisfying is a good pie that it lulls you into a state where you want to contemplate such matters. The making of a good pie is not to be rushed, its a calm purposeful endeavour. Here my friend and ultra talented photographer Teodora Matfei took the photos for an article that first appeared in food story.ro so thats why they look polished and slick and I am in them!
1 quantity of shortcrust pastry (see below) or a packet of puff pastry (“foetaj”)
1.6 kg boneless beef shoulder , cut into 2cm cubes (pulpa de vita)
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1clove of garlic, finely chopped
500ml ml beef stock (nobody will report you if you use a cube)
500ml Stout or dark beer (I use Silva dark beer very often as London Porter and Guiness are expensive)
10 sprigs of thyme
3 bay leaves
200 g mushrooms (If you have some porcini around great – or dried porcini soaked in water plus some fresh mushrooms)
1 tablespoon of strong mustard
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
1 egg – beaten with 1 tablespoon of water plus a pastry brush
Gadgets & Gizmos
A large old pan that you can put in the oven and that has a good lid, or improvise with lots of aluminium foil.
A pie dish. For real pies you need a pie dish that kind of has a “lip” that the pastry can adhere to. For smaller pies ie individual pies it is less important and you can use pyrex glass dishes (like in this photo), ramekins or even cappuccino cups. What is important is that you brush with egg wash to “glue” the pastry on. For a big pie you need a “pie funnel” which is a distinctly British piece of kitchen paraphernalia. It consists of a ceramic funnel which simultaneously raises your pastry up above the filling thus keeping it crisp and also giving a vent for the steam to escape. They are often to be found in the form of blackbirds. If for some unknown reason you do not own a pie funnel an upturned egg cup suffices.
A rolling pin or a wine bottle to roll the pastry although often I just press it with my hands for small pies
Fry the onions, garlic and carrots in the oil as you would for an Italian “soffrito”. Scatter the flour over the beef and toss it around. Tip the flour coated beef into the pan. The heat can be quite high and fierce but don’t burn the garlic.
Seal and brown the meat. A brown, crusty layer of flour goo on the bottom of the pan augurs well for a rich flavor infused sauce. Nothing to fret about.
Pour in the beer. It will froth up and alcohol vapours will waft through the house. At this point add the stock and scatter herbs, mushrooms in and invite any significant other over to inhale deeply and nonchalantly say “oh honey didn’t I ever make this for you before?”…”let me slow cook it for a million hours because it tastes better after one day”. Anticipation is all. Sling it in the oven. Go have a bath or fix your nails or do your hair or all three. Because the beef is for the next day and they just have to wait. Cook at 140C for 4-5 hours until the beef is falling apart (a bit like how the significant other will be when they taste the pie..hah!)
The next day…..
Fill your pie dish with the pie mixture so the chunks of beef just stick out at the top. Those pieces will “lift” the pastry a bit. Roll your pastry out so it is still quite thick. If you are using puff pastry just unroll from the packet. For this kind of pie a thin delicate pastry such as you need for a dessert tart would end up falling into the pie. Here you need the pastry to be more substantial – approximately 0.5-0.75cm thick. Paint the outside of the dish – where you want the pastry to adhere to. Use your rolling pin (or wine bottle if you don’t own a rolling pin) to lift the pastry up and gently drape it over the pie. Trim off any bits that hang over with a knife but you do not need to be really precise. Now “crimp” the edges either with your forefinger and thumb or with a fork – this looks pretty but also helps the pastry stick to the pie dish. Paint with the egg wash – if you don’t have a brush then use your fingers – its messy but feels good.
Bake at 180C for 30-40minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden. Serve hot with mashed potato and seasonal veggies like cabbage and carrots. If you want to serve a salad you are missing the point.
I like the pie with shortcrust pastry. I know that puff pastry is more showy but I kind of like a good shortcrust – more comfort and more homey. This one is so buttery and so easy to handle that it doesn’t crack and so is quite easy to roll over the pie dish.
Gadgets & Gizmos
A bowl and your fingers or a food mixer or a food processor.
225g cold butter 82% fat content (do not use “unt de masa”)
60ml exactly of cold water
A pinch of salt
By hand: Put the butter as a big very cold, directly out of the fridge lump, into the flour. Cut it with a knife into cubes until you are bored or until the cubes look really small. Use the flour to keep separating the cubes. Now go in with your hands to create breadcrumbs as if making crumble. The colder the butter and the colder your fingers the easier this stage is. I don’t want to be sexist but being a woman and a good dose of Raynaud’s syndrome does help. When it all looks crumbly add the water and with the knife bind together until it forms a lump and the sides of the bowl are clean. This is perfect pastry.
With a Kenwood/ Kitchen Aid: Use the K beater to create the crumbs and then add water . Cube the butter roughly first. Takes about 3 minutes. With a food processor similarly but pulse it. I have good results in both bits of kit.
Improvs and Ideas:
freeze some…having this around for pies, to serve with mash after all the effort is a great instant meal idea. It also makes a great “posh” Shepherds Pie – put the mashed potato on top and put back in the oven until crispy and brown on top.