The Beef and Ale Pie is one of those dishes that makes you think of British Autumns, when conkers are beginning to fall and the first frost is starting to creep along the windows. Sitting cosily in a village pub, surrounded by good friends (and perhaps better beers!) whilst the wind howls outside is probably one of the best places to indulge in one of these beauties.
But, if you’d prefer not to battle the temperamental British weather, why not bring the pub to you? Here’s my recipe for the perfect pub pie that I like to think of as autumn in a pastry crust.
1kg Trimmed Flank or Shin of Beef
3tbsp Plain Flour
1 Medium Onion peeled & finely chopped
1 Garlic Clove peeled & chopped
1tsp Tomato Puree
200ml Dark Ale or Guiness
1.5l Beef Stock
1 tsp Chopped Thyme Leaves
1 Bay Leaf
12 Baby Onions roasted in Butter
12 Baby Mushrooms
120g Pancetta cut into lardons
For the Pastry
225g Self Raising Flour
1 tsp Salt
85g Shredded Beef Suet
60g Butter chilled and coursely grated
2 Egg Yolks beaten for glaze
Tbsp Thyme Leaves
First, cut up the meat into 3cm cubes. It doesn’t have to be exact! When you cut into this pie, the meat will be tender enough to cut with your fork. I find a kilo of either trimmed flank, or shin of beef to be perfect for this dish. Dust the meat cubes with 1 and a half tablespoons of flour, and season with salt and pepper. Fry them until they’re a delicious golden brown colour. I find it easier to do this in 2 to 3 batches.
Next, finely chop a medium sized onion. Fry with 120g of good pancetta lardons and a finely chopped garlic clove in butter. When they turn golden brown, kick the aromatic smells up a notch further by adding a teaspoon of thyme, a bay leaf, 1 and a half tablespoons of flour, and a teaspoon of tomato puree. Stir over a low heat for 2 minutes then add 200ml of dark ale (Guinness works beautifully) and 1 and a half litres of hot beef stock. Make sure to stir to avoid any lumps. Any friends or relations you have visiting should flock to the kitchen at this point. The warm, homely smells of frying meat, onion and garlic will get even the fussiest eater’s mouth watering.
Add in the fried beef cubes and bring up to a simmer. Cover and leave to cook for around 1 and a half hours until the meat is melt in your mouth tender. During this time, roast some baby onions in butter to be added to the pie filling. Around 12 should do. Once the time is up, add the baby onions and 12 baby mushrooms, giving the filling a good stir. Cover again and leave it for a further half hour. Pastry isn’t as tricky as people make it out to be. With this easy, straightforward recipe, you’ll be sure to make a delicious, golden pie crust every time.
Mix 225g of self raising flour with a tablespoon of thyme leaves, 85g of shredded beef suet, 60g of chilled and coarsely grated butter, and salt in large bowl. Make a small well in the centre of the mixture, and mix enough water (I find 150ml to be the standard amount) to form a smooth dough. Knead the dough for roughly a minute, don’t over work.
Now the assembly!
Roll out the kneaded dough to 1cm thickness and roughly 2cm larger than the pie dish you’re planning to use. Fill the pie dish with the cooled beef filling up to 1cm from the rim. Brush the edges of the pastry with whisked egg yolk and lay over the filling. Squeeze the edges into the dish to secure the pastry into place, and allow to rest for half an hour. Once rested egg wash the top of the pie, allowing it to dry before adding a second egg wash coat. Cook in a preheated oven at 200°C for 40-50 minutes, or until it’s a tantalising golden brown colour.
Then call in the troops, and dig in!