Braised beef and beer pie
( SERVES 6 )
Photo by Tamara West
This is a classic recipe - use good quality beef and a tasty ale for the filling.
- Dice the meat into 1cm cubes. Remove the fat and reserve it for later use. Coat the meat in flour.
- Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and brown the meat in batches (if you put too many pieces in at once they will stew and not brown). Sprinkle each piece with a little salt and again when you turn them. Remove and place the meat in a bowl, repeat until you have browned all the meat.
- Put the fat into the same saucepan and cook it out a little then cook the diced onions and garlic in it. Cook these slowly until translucent.
- Add the meat, stock and water to the onions and stir well to loosen the cooked crust on the bottom of the pot. Add the Marmite, bring to a simmer and cook for 50 minutes or until the meat is tender.
- When the meat is cooked, pour in the beer and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- To thicken, mix the cornflour with cold water until there are no lumps. Add ½ cup of the meat mixture to the cornflour and stir well. With the meat still on the heat gradually pour in the cornflour mixture, stirring vigorously. When thickened (2-3 minutes) remove from the heat and leave to cool. Depending on how reduced your pie mixture was you may not need to use the all the cornflour mix. When thickened it will look glossy and thicker than whipped cream. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming on top.
To make the pies
- Preheat the oven to 220C.
- Spray your pie tins lightly with oil to prevent the pastry sticking.
- Lay the pastry on top of the tins and press down (with your hand or a small cloth works well) to stretch the pastry into the shape of the tin. The pastry can poke up as you will eventually roll off the edges with a rolling pin.
- Brush the pastry case lightly with milk, including the excess pastry.
- Spoon in the mixture to the edge of the tin.
- Lay a new sheet of pastry over the filled tin. With your rolling pin, roll the pastry to seal the base with the lid. The pressure of the rolling pin will cut off the excess pastry.
- Glaze the lid by brushing with milk or whisked egg for a glossy finish.
- Stab two holes into the top with a small knife — this lets the steam escape when baking.
- Place the pies on a baking sheet and then into the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the pies are golden.
- Frozen pastry will sometimes be cracked when you buy it. In this case, you need to save the best looking, uncracked pastry for the top and "patch" the broken pastry on the bottom. It can be annoying but it is solvable. Use a little milk or water to glue the broken sheets together.
- A pie filling should be well seasoned and flavoursome, good enough to eat on its own. It is best to make this beef filling a day early and leave it to rest in the fridge before making your pies. This means the filling will have set and be thicker and the meat will be more relaxed and tender.
- An ale or something with character is the best beer choice, anything too hoppy will make the pie taste bitter. If you prefer, you can omit the beer and just replace with water, stock, or even wine.
- The pastry is important. This recipe uses flaky pastry on the base and top, however it is also common to use shortcrust on the bottom with flaky pastry on top. I find the frozen sheets available in the supermarket are better to work with than frozen rolled pastry and they need to be taken out of the freezer 30 minutes before you need to use them. Invariably, the size of pastry sheets will not fit your tins without some wastage. Make sure you buy an extra packet of pastry to ensure you have enough.
- You will need some sort of pie tin. Metal is best as the pastry will crisp up better but you can use a metal quiche tin or a ceramic flan dish. In ceramic dishes you risk the pastry not cooking through on the base and being a little soggy. If you are serving the pie hot from the oven you can get away with undercooked pastry.