The passion to the journey called food takes to the Great British Pie week. Here we celebrate the very best of British heritage and probably one of the most loved foods in the UK. Every nook and corner of the country has got a local shop or a brand that offers variety of pies, some have even gone on to invent square pies, a move away from the traditional round pies.

In this blog we take a look at the Steak & Ale pie, easily the most loved and popular among pies. I have been making these pies for a better part of 15 years now and nothing beats a handmade pie with chips and a pint of beer. There are many versions and many chefs have their own special interpretations, so nothing is right or wrong as long as it tastes delicious.

Over many tries I have realised a good brasing meat is key to the cooking process and this adds to the robust body the pie contains. I would normally choose a top side but have since moved to the common Beef Brisket, purely because I want it to be slow cooked to enable the fibres to break down as slowly as possible to ensure a tender meat. The key here is to sear the diced meat on a very high heat and on all sides, it makes it vibrant and the dark brown color you would expect from the pie. For the ale I have used Guinness, now that’s purely because I love a Guinness chilled and this gave me the excuse to drink one.

We have kept it very simple and used small pearl onions so that when roasted brown it releases a sweet and sour flavour. This is a versatile variety of onion that remains whole when cooked for prolonged periods. The other vegetable of my choice is the Chestnut mushroom, these mushrooms have a very nice flavour that only intensifies while cooking. We have also added a dash of Red Wine and red wine vinegar to add a sharpness to the mix.

That said, the other vital part of the pie is the pastry case, no one likes a soggy pie, they have to be crisp and be able to absolve the liquid from the pie filling and still stand crunchy and crisp on the outside. Back in the days I used to use herbs, wholegrain mustard and loads of other things, but with constant adaptions of the recipe over the years we have come with a very simple recipe.

So, what are you waiting for, get the family together and let’s make pies!!

Ingredients:

  1. 6 Tbsp Beef Dripping, (We used Aberdeen Angus Beef Dripping)
  2. 800g Beef Brisket, diced
  3. 30g Plain Flour,
  4. Salt & Pepper to taste
  5. 100g Smoked Pancetta
  6. 200g whole Baby Pearl Onions
  7. 200g Chestnut Mushrooms, quartered
  8. 440ml Guinness (plus another 1 to drink)
  9. 450ml Beef stock (I’ve used OXO cubes)
  10. 4 sprigs of Thyme,
  11. 1 Bay leaf
  12. 1 & 1/2 tbsp dark Muscovado Sugar
  13. 1 tbsp Red wine vinegar
  14. 4 tbsp Red wine

For the pastry:

  1. 600g Plain Flour, plus extra to dust
  2. 1 & 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  3. 3 tsp Mustard powder
  4. 1 tsp Sea Salt
  5. 175g Suet
  6. 20ml Iced water (use as much to bring dough together, not too much)
  7. Egg Wash – 1 Egg and 4 tbsp Milk, to glaze

Method:

  1. Season the beef with salt and pepper and roll in the flour (this helps the meat to remain intact in the cooking process), keep aside.
  2. Take a skillet and heat it to about 180c and then add a bit of beef dripping and seal the meat a little at a time, take care not to over crowd the pan or else you will get broiled meat, you want a constant high heat and the meat sealing on all sides nice and easy. Remove and keep aside in a casserole or a slow cooker pot.
  3. Once all the meat has been sealed, turn down the heat and add the pancetta, mushroom and the pearl onions, cook till the onions have really browned.
  4. Remove and add this to the casserole.
  5. Now add 440ml of Guinness to the skillet and deglaze the pan scraping every bit of the residue into the casserole.
  6. Top up with beef stock, thyme, bay leaf, sugar, red wine and red wine vinegar.
  7. Cook this with the lid closed on a slow simmer for about 1 &1/2 hours or until the meat is soft and tender. (in the slow cooker follow the slow settings to cook for about 3-4 hours)
  8. Take a bowl, add the flour and the dry ingredients, give it a good mix. Then with the palm of your hands rub in the suet till it look like crumbs, at this point add water a little sprinkle at a time until the dough comes together to a semi hard texture.
  9. Chill this for about 30 minutes. Then remove and flatten the dough and roll out to 1cm thickness and line you pie moulds and return to the refrigerator until your meat is done (the longer you chill the crispier the dough). Save the remaining dough for the topping of the pie to enclose it.
  10. When the meat is done it should thicken up, if not remove the lid and cook for a little longer to let the liquid evaporate. Or if you don’t want to wait any longer, take 3 tbsp of flour and 3 tbsp of butter and cook them to form a roux, then added this to the mix to thicken it. Remove from heat and completely chill the mix.

And, viola your pie is ready for all to dig in.

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