Timing is everything. Be it in everyday life or in the kitchen – leave a cake in the oven for an extra five minutes and its dry, take it out to early and it sinks.
I don’t have the best timings in life, but I try hard. It’s important to my everyday life. I work in an appointment-based job, having every half an hour planned out for me……this works much better!. I have been known to leave friends waiting for 15 minutes while I panic across town. This has changed since I met Dave, the most on-time man I have ever known. This, to me, is mind-blowing.
My family does not do time. This may sound strange but they don’t. The clocks in their house? ALL wrong. Every single one of them. What makes this stranger….? My mum? Collects clocks! Alanis Morrisette….If your reading….? That’s Ironic. I have never known my family to arrive anywhere on time. It truly is as if time to them does not exist. I am now an on-time person, and am in a constant state of anger at their untimeliness.
But in true ‘Leech’ fashion, I’m posting this pie recipe (that requires next to no timing) at the worst time for pies – January. When everyone else is eating lettuce leaves, apple slices and enjoying the occasional iced water with a slice of lemon, I’m digging into a steak, mushroom and ale pie in an attempt to restore my joyous spirit. I have taken down my Christmas decorations and my house looks sad and lonely. Pie will fix this. Just as it will fix a bad mood from untimely family members.
Pies are fantastic. Not just because they engulf you in a big security blanket of soft meat and crisp buttery pastry, but they are also easy and can adjusted to your schedule. Today, after a lazy breakfast – a dark, irony beef stew blipping away in the oven is just what is needed to end my first week back in work and signal the beginning to what will hopefully be a healthy week. As, when I threw all my Christmas chocolate away on the morning of New Years Day, I replenished my stocks by just eating everyone else’s chocolate in work.
Steak, Mushroom and Ale Pie
Serves 4 – although two of us ate it. It was good and we are greedy.
I used Black Sheep Ale, but I really wish I’d have used Hobgoblin Ale - because then I could have called this pie, Hobgoblin Pie!. I used a normal white onion, but with hindsight I should have used them little tiny silverskin onions you find in the freezer. With stew, I’ve given measurements but don’t feel you have to stick to them. That’s the joy of things like this. It’s so forgiving. The vinegar just cuts through the richness. If you don’t have any in, don’t worry.
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp butter
500g Stewing Steak – diced into big chunks
Leaves from a few stalks of thyme
1 bottle of whichever dark ale you fancy
1 large onion
1 stick of celery
250ml beef stock
salt and pepper
2tbsp plain flour
1tbsp red wine vinegar (optional)
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
1 pack button mushrooms
1 pack of ready-made puff pastry
1 egg whisked with some milk, season with salt and pepper
Pre heat your oven to 140 oC/275 oF/Gas Mark 1
Dry off your beef with kitchen roll, I know this sounds like I’ve finally lost it, but your beef won’t brown if it’s not dry, and the browner the beef, the darker the stew, the happier the eater.
Season the beef with the salt, pepper and thyme leaves and fry in half of the oil and half of the butter until the beef has a lovely dark, caramelised colour. Remove the meat from the pan and add the veg (I diced my celery small, kept my carrots big, just cutting them in half, and sliced my onion. My thinking was that I didn’t want little bits of carrots, just the flavour, so I could just remove big chunks of carrot at the end. The celery will just melt into the sauce, as will the onions). Cook until brown, again the browner the better, catching on the bottom of the pan? Good. When all brown and lovely add the beef back, add the flour, some more salt and pepper and cook for two minutes. Pour in the ale, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and stock. Put a lid on your pan and put in the oven for two hours. After two hours, take out the oven. If your pan is not oven proof, just keep it on the stove (on a low heat) for two hours, checking to make sure it’s not stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Heat a frying pan with the remaining oil and butter, add mushrooms and fry until golden, season and add to the beef. Check beef, it should just collapse when pushed by a spoon.
Turn your oven up to 180 oC/350 oF/gas mark 4
Transfer to a shallow oven proof dish*, removing the carrots (eating them, as they are far too good to waste!) and allow to cool, this will stop your crust from sinking and becoming soggy. When cool, roll out pastry brush the edge of your dish with the eggy milk and lay over the top of your pie, crimping your edges to the dish, then cut off the excess, brushing over the top with your eggy, milk wash.
Put in the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and bubbling up the side.
We had our’s with colcannon, broccoli and cauliflower.
*If your gravy looks a little thin, you can thicken it up with a tbsp cornflour with a tbsp water, and stir into the stew. Alternatively, when you spoon the meat into the oven dish, use a slotted spoon and then boil the remaining gravy in the pan until it reduces by half, and then pour over the meat.