If there’s one thing my love of cooking has taught me it is that everyone loves pie. And why on earth not?
Pie is a most guilty of pleasure, but a pleasure it certainly is.
And the real beauty of it is that most of the hard work can be done the night before.
My greatest kitchen disaster was a pie, but that was largely because I had to work late, had seven people round for dinner and hadn’t done anything the night before.
Learning from my mistakes, that is now the way I make pies.
To celebrate National Pie Week (a great week, among many poor relations), this is my pie recipe.
Please bear in mind that pies are a personal adventure, and each one I do has been different.
For a real show-stopper, however, only a pastry bottom and top will do.
I recently did a chicken pie, which I will share with you at a later date, but that was truly awesome too (others told me so!)
Ok, so you need:
- shortcrust pastry and puff pastry (or short/short, if you prefer that top. Or suet.)
- Good beef stock
- tomato puree
- Shallots or red onion
- two Bay leaf
- Stewing steak
- Danish Blue cheese
- Salt, pepper
Blind bake the shortcrust in your pie tin, using beads or rice to weigh down the pastry and stop it coming up. Usually takes 5-10 miins but keep an eye on it. Just starting to brown is good.
Take it out, remove beads carefully, then egg wash, to stop the contents leaking, and put it back in the oven for a couple more minutes until properly golden brown. Watch the top of the sides – you don’t want them burned.
I tend to do the meat first. Bacon’s easiest and rests well, so start with that and get it crispy. It also has the best fat, so hold on to that for the onion/shallot.
For the beef, pat it down to remove excess fat, then plonk it in some seasoned flour and cook in batches (they won’t brown otherwise and will boil). I like to have a rosemary sprig in while cooking the steak – gives it monster flavour – and more seasoning is sometimes required.
Once done, the meat can rest.
Garlic – I tend to do as much as the mood takes me, and I love the stuff, so have at it. Half a bulb is upper levels...
Chop the shallots or onions (I’ve done finely chopped and chunky) in the bacon fat with added butter. Let them cook for a couple of minutes on a medium, until starting to go translucent, then add the garlic, and carrots, with the mushrooms roughly chopped and added soon after.
After a few more minutes, the Guinness goes in. I used 2-300 ml, then let it bubble, uncovered, for a couple of minutes, to get some of the alcohol out of it. I then add about 500ml of good beef stock. In goes the beef and half the bacon or pancetta, to get all the flavours in there. Follow this with the bay leaves, a bit more rosemary and some tomato puree.
Let this simmer really slowly, covered, for as long as you can wait – the longer the better. I like to add the other half of the bacon later on, as it disintegrates somewhat if cooked for ages.
When all that lovely stuff’s done, use a slotted spoon to remove the filling and put it in the pie. I like to reduce down the liquid to pour on to the top of the pie. It gets much thicker and more unctuous.
Then it’s time for the cheese, crumbled on top of it all. Lots is good for me but it’s up to you.
You then have to let the contents cool completely, before you roll out the pastry top, or use ready rolled (tends to be just an awkward shape, which is annoying) to a few millimetres thick. Egg wash the top of the base and carefully place the puff on top of that, then do some crimping with a fork so it’s sealed.
More egg wash over the top, then the pie goes in the fridge. When you’re ready to cook the pie, put a fresh coating of egg wash on.
Everything is done by now, so 200°C for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and looking tasty.
Serve with mash, peas and gravy on the side.