For Christmas, my husband gave me another pie cookbook to add to my growing collection. This one, written by a British author, focuses mainly on savory pies.
I decided to start with the recipe for beef and beer pie, because who can resist a pie made with Guinness?
It’s the kind of pie that takes quite awhile to make; I began in the morning and we ate around 6pm. In fact, next time I make this, I will make the filling a day ahead (this was recommended in the cookbook but we didn’t want to wait.)
I added 1/4 cup flour and a generous coating of seasoned black pepper and salt to 2 lbs. of stew meat. You can use chuck steak cut into chunks, but I had stew meat on hand, so that’s what I used.
Toss it around so the meat is completely coated. Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a heavy pan — I used my French (Dutch) oven. Add 2 Tbsp. of butter to the pan.
When the butter is melted, add the meat in batches, brown on all sizes for just a few minutes, then remove to a plate. Cut two onions in thin slices. Wash and cut two carrots and cut roughly into 2″ slices. (Next time I make this, I’m adding more carrots.) When the meat is browned and removed from the pan, add the onion and the carrots and cook for a few minutes, stirring often.
Put the meat back into the pan with the vegetables and add 2 Tbsp. tomato paste and 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce. (Or in my case, put the lid on the pot, turn the stove off, dash upstairs, take a shower, get dressed and go to the store to buy Worcestershire and tomato paste because it wasn’t in the pantry like I thought it was.)
Add the best part of all: a pint of Guinness. You can use some other dark beer, but that just wouldn’t be right.
Heat the whole mess to boiling. Then turn the stove down to a simmer and cook forever. And by forever I mean two hours. The smell will make you so hungry you can’t even stand it. So grab a spare Guinness with some cheese and crackers, read a good book and wait.
After the two hours of torture, pour the filling into a deep dish pie plate to cool completely. This may take another two hours so planning ahead is essential. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I got the chance to use my pie bird for this recipe — a pie bird, or pie funnel is recommended for meat pies. You place the funnel in the center of the filling and cut a hole in the top crust for the funnel to come through. This helps support the top crust and keeps it from getting soggy. It also helps steam escape from the pie.
I think it’s hilarious because it looks like the poor bird is drowning in the pie.
The beef and beer pie calls for a rich shortcrust pastry, which is an all-butter crust with egg and lemon juice. The consistency is more dense than a dessert crust, but sturdy enough to provide the right balance for a meat pie. It’s also an easier crust to work with when rolling and crimping.
Like many dinner pies, this is a top-crust only adventure; I prepared the crust dough while the filling was cooling and put it in the refrigerator to firm up for half an hour.
Top the pie, crimp the edges and brush the crust with a beaten egg for a pretty golden pastry. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes.
I didn’t take an “after” picture because we ate it pretty quickly after it came out of the oven — after smelling this savory pie all day no one wanted to wait any longer.
I served the pie with mashed potatoes, a perfect side to capture the rich gravy.
I’ll be making this pie again soon.