The hubbie and I celebrated our one-year anniversary this weekend (hence the intricate dough work in the above picture) and we decided that only the most British of dishes would help to ring in 365 days of wedded glory. That's right- we made a romantic Steak and Ale pie. Laugh all you want, but we have been lusting after these since we watched a dozen or so of them get made on The Great British Bake-Off. It also happens that we have demanding standards for our steak and ale pies.
Now, many recipes will tell you to use a puff pastry- a light crumbly thing that you can just whack on the top of a steak and ale stew. No, no. If you're going to have a steak and ale pie, in my opinion the only real option is to do it with a lard-based hot water crust. Oh yes. Lard. Yes, it's fallen relatively out of fashion in recent years, but I argue that if you're already going down the meat-filled road that is a savory pie, why not add to that savory flavor by infusing it in the crust as well? I also find this to be an amazingly easy pastry to make. I hadn't made anything lard-based in years and this thing came out right the first time, no holes, no seepage. It also took roughly 3 minutes to put together (I mean the crust, the entire pie is a bit more of a time commitment).
Serves: 4-6 as a hearty main course
Time: 3 1/2 - 4 hours (I told you it was a time commitment)
Ingredients for the pie filling (pie crust recipe to follow)
6 tbsp all purpose white flour (although you can really use any flour here)
3 tsp sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 kg braising or stewing beef, chopped
30g or 2 tbsp (roughly) unsalted butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
500 ml or so of a mild English Ale (we used Great Lakes Brewery's Pompous Ass English Ale)
1 large red onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
500 ml of strong beef stock (if you're using cubes or "stock jellies"- use one more then they recommend for the liquid amount)
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar (light or dark)
4 bay leaves
3 tsp thyme
250g mushrooms- preferably brown or white (there's no need for fancy mushrooms here)
3 garlic cloves, sliced very thinly
3 tbsp lemon juice
Ingredients for the Hot Water Pastry Crust
100g Lard (or vegetable shortening if you really must)
450g all purpose white flour
1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork
Mix the flour, sea salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl. Add the chopped beef and toss to coat.
In a large pan, add the butter and the vegetable oil and set on medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the beef in batches, frying until well browned on all sides (2-3 minutes). Set each batch aside on a paper towel-lined plate while you work the rest. You may need to add more butter and/or oil to the pan at stages to prevent the beef from sticking and/or burning. When you have worked your way through all the beef, add about 1/4 of the ale to the pan and swirl it around to release the flour and other bits that have stuck to the bottom. Pour this into a medium bowl and add all the cooked beef to it.
|Our chosen ale for the pie. Appropriate, right?|
Pour a bit more oil into the empty pan and add the onions and carrots, stirring occasionally. Add the rest of the beer along with the stock, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and leave it to reduce for approximately 1 hour. Just remember to give it a good stir every once in a while.
Preheat the oven to 425 F.
Stir in the mushrooms, garlic, and lemon juice and cook for another 30 minutes. If the filling looks dry, add some water (or more beer!). Leave this to cool completely (you can always stick it in the fridge to help along this process).
It's time to start on the pastry. Put the water, lard, and salt in a small saucepan and heat on medium. Put the flour in a bowl, and once the water and lard are boiling, pour the mixture over the flour and stir together until the dough begins to come together. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 2-3 minutes. Return 1/3 of the dough to the bowl and cover it with a kitchen towel to keep warm. You want the mixture to stay as warm as possible, as once it cools it will be tricky to work with. So, don't dawdle with the pastry!
Take the 2/3 of the dough you still have on the floured work surface and roll out to a rough circle about 30cm or 10 inches in diameter. Roll this on to a rolling pin and lay inside a springform cake tin (approximately 23cm or 9 inches).
|The pastry wrapped around the rolling pin, to be placed inside the springform tin.|
Once in position in the tin, use your fingers to make sure the the pastry is moulded into all the corners. Let the excess come up and over the top of the tin and use any of this to fix any holes.
|The pastry-filled tin.|
Brush the tops and inside rim of the pastry with the beaten egg (be generous!). Then roll out the remaining pastry (the 1/3 you left in the bowl) to a diameter of roughly 28cm or 10 inches. Roll this on to the rolling pin and lay out on the pie. Use your fingers to join the base to the top of the pastry, makings a good seal. Use your fingers and thumb to crimp it closed. Brush the entire top with beaten egg (reserve any you don't use). Make some slashes with a kitchen knife in the top of the crust in order to let steam escape. If you're feeling artistic and have some pastry bits left over, you can always add them to the top for decoration like we did.
Bake for approximately 45 minutes. You can release the springform sides as soon as you take it out, the pastry should be cooked enough by now. Brush the sides of the pie with even more of the beaten egg and return the pie to the oven for a final 20 minutes until the whole pie is a rich brown.
The pie is a mighty hearty main course, but you might want to add some veggies as a side dish to break up the meatiness. We served ours with a side of brussels sprouts with buerre blanc sauce. Because why not?