Saturday, 12 February 2011

Who ate all the pies? Steak, ale and cheese pie

Now I love pie. I truly, truly do. Especially pork pie. In fact my old work colleagues knew me for my love of pork pie and would make sure I was provided for whenever birthday buns were brought in. I say birthday buns, our department had birthday buffets rather than just buns and every single one of them would have a pork pie, just for me. Sigh.

I digress... It seems that some of you are seeking a break from the offal as, along with Oxtail, the pie won my recent poll. My Sausage Stew post also won the praise from a friend who was after something a bit homely but free of bizarre ingredients! So, rather than go for something unusual here, I resisted the urge to do a pie of four and twenty blackbirds and went for an old classic – steak and ale.

I like thick, chunky, stodgy pie. I don’t like my meat to be swimming in gravy and I like a think pastry top AND bottom. It’s not much to ask is it? Well, I didn’t think it was but it took a bit of searching to find the right recipe. It was worth it though and I found everything I wanted and MORE as this pie has CHEESE in it. Oh my! Thick, meaty pie, with a top and a bottom and CHEESE. It’s a Jamie Oliver recipe and can be found here.

I made a few adjustments. Firstly I didn’t actually use Guinness (it was £6.50 for 4 cans in Tesco - £6.50!!) and I went for Hobgoblin beer (it was on offer). Secondly I didn’t have any fresh rosemary, so I used fresh thyme. Thirdly I’m not so hot on celery so I used 2 extra carrots instead. Oooo and I used standard button mushroom instead of field mushrooms and white onions instead of red.

So this is how it went.

Olive oil
3 medium onions, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
30g butter
4 carrots, peeled, halved length ways and sliced
4 medium button mushrooms (more would be better, say 8)
1kg of stewing steak, chopped into bite size chunks
5-6 sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper
440 mls Hobgoblin (use any beer, or Guinness, not lager)
3 heaped tablespoons plain flour
200g grated Cheddar cheese
500g ready made, all-butter puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Serves 4-6
Pre-heat oven to 190C

I took a casserole dish, heated some oil on a low heat and then added the onions. I fried these very gently for about 10 minutes – just to soften them – not to colour them. I then turned the heat up, added the garlic, butter, carrots and mushrooms. I mixed everything together and then added the beef, the thyme and some salt and pepper.

I turned up the heat and cooked it to colour the beef, for about 4 minutes or so. Then I poured in the Hobgoblin. That immediately frothed up, but calmed down after a bit of stirring.   

Frothy stew

Next went in 2 tablespoons of the flour. I stirred that in then added enough cold water to cover everything and brought it stew up to a simmer, placed the lid on the dish and put it in the oven. I left it there for about two and a half hours, taking it out for a stir every half hour or so. About half way through, I added the third tablespoon of flour to help with the thickening of the gravy. 

Once the two and a half hours were up, the stew was thick, the meat was tender and all the veg had softened. Jamie says that if the stew isn’t thick enough at this point you can place it on a hob to reduce the sauce further. I then stirred in half of the cheese, seasoned it and left it to cool a while whilst I prepared the pastry.

Suitably thick pie filling.

Buying ready made puff pastry might be considered cheating, but I’m sure I’ve heard many chefs say that they would never make their own puff pastry at home…. And who am I to argue? I dusted a work surface down along with my rolling pin. Taking the block of pastry, I cut about a third off it and rolled each separate block into circular shapes. One had to be large enough to fill the pie dish with some over hang, the other to form a lid. I then greased my pyrex flan/pie dish and laid the larger piece of pastry into it leaving the excess hanging over the sides   I then spooned my stew mixture in, followed by a scattering of the remaining cheese.  

I brushed the edges with egg and laid the smaller piece of pastry on top, tucked it into the sides then folded the overhanging pastry over onto the lid forming a nice tight seal. I brushed the lid with egg and stuck it directly onto the bottom of the oven for 45 minutes.

I could barely keep my eyes off it as it cooked!   

Apart from anything else, I was scared that the pie would explode, that the juices would seep out and make a terrible mess of my oven. This didn’t happen – thankfully. Instead the pastry puffed up magnificently and it kept the filling nice and safe.

I served it with chips and peas (what else?). The filling was thick and rich with tender chunks of meat. The pastry was flaky, yet stodgy at the same time. The pastry on the bottom really benefited from the direct heat of the bottom of the oven as it had a nice colour to it and wasn’t soggy. It was even good cold the next day.

Cold PIE!
Overall it was a damn good pie and I was impressed with the ease of the recipe. I would just make one change as I wouldn’t scatter half of the cheese on top of the stew, below the pastry. Although it smelt delicious whilst cooking, I think the pie would have benefited from all the cheese being stirred into the mix rather than having half of it form stringy clumps on top of the meat.

Definitely one to repeat!

Are you a pie lover?  What’s your favourite?  You gonna give this one a go?


  1. Big pie lovers at this house! Thanks for the recipe - I will give it a go.

  2. Diane you can't go wrong with a bit of pie can you? Enjoy the recipe!

  3. Katyo Wite - as posted on my Facebook page....

    clare i'm all confused wi my gmail account password, too many passwords and i can't comment on yer blog, but i had to say your pie looks IMMENSE, i am wiping dribble from the laptop as i type... it's got double CHEESE, a bonus in any dish, ...any time surely... when i have an oven again, i will be trying out your recipes!
    site looks tres professionale by the way, ya pro ya