The mingling of mushrooms, butter and thyme is a heady, earthy, fragrant dive into gluttony. I could eat that combo for breakfast, lunch and dinner in any number of permutations. When required to devise a pie that included beer and beef, I was in no doubt that my golden trio would be included. Ok so in terms of ratios if it was just me, I’d have double the quantity of mushy’s but I know others are, incomprehensibly, fans of meat so to them I bow for this recipe. I like meat sure, but the golden trio own my heart.
There’s no question that the stout could certainly be replaced with other beers but I like the slightly bitter, nutty punch of stout here which a mellow and relaxed amber ale just couldn’t deliver. Who am I to judge though, it’s a personal choice and I encourage you to make your own way in this world with nary a thought for how I like it and a lot more focus on how you like it.
This recipe was adapted from Nigella’s steak and kidney pie recipe but because, unlike Nigella, I love an individual serve because I don’t have to faff about with plates and slicing and mess. It’s contained beautifully.
On the subject of pie birds, some swear by them and I guess if you are making a large family sized pie all that steam must be driven out so as not to make your crust a soggy mess. I’ve also been lead to believe that the bird aids in keeping the pastry from sagging in the middle so I went on a hunt for more birds as I didn’t quite have the required number. Turns out all the local purveyors of such things (the kitchen shop next to Fratelli Fresh, Victorias Basement and Peters of Kensington) had coincidentally had a run on pie birds and nary a bird was to be found. Thinking my self a latter-day Macguyver I grabbed some small metal pannacotta pots I had on hand and dropped those into the centre of my baking dishes aka bowls. Due to numbers, I still had to leave one pie “unsupported” but I figured I could serve that sad wastrel to myself. The pies, when removed from the oven where gorgeous, burnished gold and the pastry sat nicely above the bowl. Except one. It rose in a glorious tower of puffed crisp buttery perfection. Turns out, that was the one lacking an underwire. The lessons here: (1) don’t believe everything you’re told. (2) Pie birds are bunk. (3) Gravy will hide inside pannacotta pots because it’s cheeky and shy.
Cooking the pie filling a day beforehand is an excellent decision for two reasons. (1) It’s best if the filling is cold when it goes into the oven so that it heats at the same rate as the pastry cooks and (2) anything slow cooked tastes better the day after. Fact! Blah blah discard fat blah blah blah. I mean really, it’s a pain in the arse and there really isn’t that much anyway so I didn’t bother. So sue me.
This is a single crust pie i.e. it’s a top only. I’m less fond of a double crust because I’m not a massive pastry lover. Too dense and filling. I’d rather spend my calories and stomach real estate on yummy filling.
5 but why wouldn’t you want leftovers? Double it I say!
- 500g chuck steak
- 300g small to medium portobello mushrooms
You could go button but I guarantee the flavour will not be as good. You want the earthy dankness of portobellos to create a dark base note which the light plastickyness of button mushys just cannot deliver.
- 1-2 cups stout (depend how beery you like it)
- 1-2 cup of beef stock
- 2 carrots
- 3 onions
- 2 celery stalks
- 1/2 bunch thyme
- fresh nutmeg
- Salt & Pepper
- 2x Careme all butter puff pastry
The packet says it will do 6 individual pies however that’s very dependant on the size of the pie dish. I got three out of each packet so you’ll have to work out what you need based on the size of your dishes.
Yes Careme is expensive. The difference is unparalleled. Once tasted you will never be able to eat supermarket puff pastry ever again.
- A couple of tablespoons of beef dripping* (or olive oil) for cooking
Nigella says to use beef dripping and frankly I’m not altogether convinced its a necessity but I do trust Nigella when we are discussing “tasty”.
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
Stuff You’ll Need
- a slow cooker or very heavy based large saucepan like a Le Creuset (but I do strongly suggest the slow cooker to avoid scalding the bottom)
- a rolling pin
- a large shallow bowl
- baking paper
- a gentle pastry brush
The Day Before
- Chop your carrot, celery and onion into a smallish dice aka mire poix.
Imagine it inside a pie – how big a piece of carrot would you like to see? That’s how small you chop it.
- Separately, chop the mushrooms into largish pieces. I went for quarters because, while that’s pretty large chunks, mushrooms collapse in on themselves.
- Separately, chop the beef into chunks about 2cm square.
You can trim them a little to remove any gross bits or huge seams of the silvery stuff or large chunks of fat but don’t go nuts. Fat is flavour and you can remove it after cooking to ensure you get flavour without having to drink down wads of fat.
- In a large shallow bowl, place the flour, a few pinches of salt and pepper and grate in a very respectable amount of nutmeg… I like to see the speckles. Give it a mix to combine.
- Dredge your meat in the flour and shake off any excess.
- Into a warm pan throw a small amount of the dripping/oil.
- When it’s warmed, add the mire poix to the pan and sauté gently till golden.
- Remove to the slow cooker.
- Add the butter to the pan and throw in the mushrooms.
- Add a couple of pinches of salt and strip half the stalks of thyme into the pan.
- The mushrooms will soak the butter up like nobody’s business so keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t get too dry – you don’t want to burn your them (not that there’s anything wrong with a little golden burnish). Saute till the water just starts seeping out.
- Remove to the slow cooker.
- Throw some more dripping into the pan and let it get hot.
- In batches so as not to crowd (nobody likes to get close-quarters in a hot locale and meat is the same – you want golden brown not sweaty), sauté the beef and remove each batch into the slow cooker.
- Throw any remaining flour into the pan and add a little dripping – cook it out for a couple of minutes stirring constantly to avoid burning. A nice golden brown is what you’re going for.
- Add the beer into the pan and allow to bubble up then pour into the slow cooker.
- Add the beef stock into the pan. Allow it to get hot before throwing just enough into the slow cooker to barely cover the meat.
- Strip the remaining thyme stems into the pan and give it all a good mix.
- Pop the lid on and cook for about 2 1/2 hours.
- When it’s done, the meat should be very soft but not quite falling about.
- Leave to cool in the pot.
- Preheat the oven to 200C.
- Place all your dishes onto a baking tray for ease of transport.
- Use your pie dish to make a template for your pie lid on baking paper.
It needs to be about a centimetre or so larger than the dish
- Cut your pastry lids as per your template and drop onto the dishes.
- Take a little bit of water on your thumb and in a gentle-ish pushing motion make sure that pastry is melded to the outside of the dish. I top up with water every couple of nudges.
- In a bowl, make an egg wash with 1 egg and a dash of milk lightly beaten
- With your pastry brush, swathe the pie lid all over with the egg wash. I’m particularly generous here. Don’t forget the sides.
- Quickly get your pies into the oven and cook for about 25-30 minutes.
Check half way if the tray needs a turn. My oven is particularly bullshit at cooking evenly so I spin to avoid dark at the back and light at the front. Your oven is likely much better than my piece ‘o crap.
- They pies are ready when the pastry looks beautiful and inviting and dark golden.
Serve with champ mash or a parsnip-potato mash and peas with mint and asparagus and maybe even some caramelised carrots if you’re feeling like a kitchen amazon.
* Turns out, the local supermarket sells beef dripping in the butter section. Although I suspect that might be a tad nastier than the stuff your butcher could give you. When initially melting it has a mildly obnoxious smell but that dissapates quickly.