Thursday, 16 March 2017

St Patrick's Day 2017: Beef and Beer Pie (Wheat Free with Dairy- and Egg Free Option)

Looking for a hearty meal for your table this weekend? Here is a delicious pie made with super flaky pastry, succulent tender beef, enveloped in a rich beer gravy.

(I did take a photo of the whole pie, but my new phone sometimes
forgets to save photos, for some reason)

It's no lie: Irish people love beer, and they love beef; and on St Patrick's Day, we love to celebrate our Irishness by buying into our own cultural stereotype heart and soul. So, I decided to mix our two great loves together in a pie, with the addition of another great love of ours: butter.

However, here is where I make a little switcheroo. As any of my long term readers, and people who know me personally, will know, I am a bit of a mongrel: I'm Irish, but I'm also English. Being the child of two nations who have a very difficult historically colonial relationship is challenging, it has to be said.

So, to bring a little bit of my own Englishness into this dish, I swapped the usual Irish pie topping of mashed potato for a flaky pastry, more commonly associated with English cookery. As much as I love mashed potato, my companion—who is also a mongrel like me, being a little bit Roscommon man, and a little bit Birmingham man—loves a good English style pastry pie, so I thought I'd do it for a change.

I use the same kind of pastry as in my cherry pie recipe, however I reduced the sugar to a pinch or two, added some black pepper, used a pound (455 grammes) of flour and scaled all the other ingredients accordingly.

The other thing I will say about this recipe is that I use my slow cooker to make the stew. If you don't have a slow cooker, that's perfectly okay. You can cook the stew on the stove top in a pan, or in a pot in the oven. It really doesn't matter, as long as the meat is appropriately cooked.

This recipe takes a long time, about 6 hours, but it's well worth it in the end!

For one 9 inch (22 centimetre) square, or 10 inch (25 centimetre) round pie, ie. 4¼ UK pint (5 US pint, 2½ litre)

For the stew filling,
  • 2¼ pounds (1 kilogramme) diced stewing beef
  • 1 large onion, white or red, sliced thinly
  • 6 ounces (170 grammes) passata, or 2 tablespoons (30 millilitres) tomato purée
  • 1 bottle (500 millilitres) pale beer, or gluten free beer
  • 2 teaspoons (10 millilitres) Worcestershire sauce, or fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) brown sugar
  • 1 rounded teaspoon (7 millilitres) dried parsley
  • A small pinch of dried rosemary
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 4 ounces (115 grammes) button mushrooms, cut into halves
  • 1 medium sized carrot, sliced into coins
  • 2 tablespoons (30 millilitres) cornflour
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the pastry,
  • 1 pound (455 grammes) white spelt flour
  • 4 ounces (115 grammes) butter, or margarine, very cold
  • 4 ounces (115 grammes) block vegetable fat, or lard, very cold
  • 1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) caster sugar
  • About 5 ot 6 fluid ounces (150 to 180 millilitres) cold water
  • Salt and pepper
  • An egg, for egg washing, or milk, or omit


First, make the stew,

If you have a slow cooker,

  • Put the meat, passata, beer, onion, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, dried herbs, the stock cube, and about half a teaspoon (3 millitres) of salt. Stir well once more, then cover and cook on High for 3 hours until the meat is almost tender.
  • Add in the mushrooms and carrots, and cook for a further hour with the lid off to allow the sauce to reduce.
  • Mix the cornflour in a small bowl or glass with some water, and stir into the pot well. Cook on High for a further 15 minutes until the sauce is well thickened.
  • After cooking, allow to stew to cool down fully to room temperature.
If you don't have a slow cooker,
  • Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F, Gas Mk.2), and place the  meat, passata, beer, onion, Worcestershire sauce, sugar,
  •  dried herbs, the stock cube, and about half a teaspoon (3 millitres) of salt in a large casserole dish with a lid.
  • Cover with the lid, and place in the centre of the preheated oven. Cook for 1½ to 2 hours, or until the meat is almost tender.
  • Add in the mushrooms and carrots, and continue to cook without the lid for a further 45 minutes to an hour until the vegetables and meat are tender.
  • When the meat is cooked, place the casserole dish over a medium flame, and mix the cornflour with a little water in a small bowl or glass. Add to the stew and bring to the boil, mixing continuously, until the sauce is thickened.
  • After cooking, allow the stew to cool down full to room temperature.

While the stew is cooking, prepare the pastry,

  • In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, salt, and pepper, then grate in the butter and the fat on the coarse side, dipping the grating side in the flour between strokes to prevent clumping.
  • Very gently rub and break up the strands of butter and fat between your fingers to make the pieces smaller, about the size of peas.
  • Add in the lemon juice or vinegar, then add in a tablespoon or two (15 or 30 millilitres) of the water. Use the tip of a table knife to mix the water through. Continue this until you get a nice soft dough. It shouldn't be sticky. I added about 8 tablespoons in total myself, but it depends a lot on humidity and flour quality.
  • Make the dough into a disc, wrap in clingfilm, and chill in the fridge for half an hour.
  • Take out of the fridge, and roll out to a thickness of about half an inch (1 centimetre). Fold one outer third into the middle, then fold the other third over on top, like folding a letter into three. Roll out and fold in the exact same way.
  • Wrap up and return to the fridge once more until ready to use.

Finally, assemble the pie,
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F, Gas Mk.4), and get your chosen pie dish.
  • Take the dough out of the fridge, and divide into two pieces: two thirds, and one third. Wrap the smaller piece up and return to the fridge.
  • Roll the larger piece of dough to roughly a quarter inch thick (5 millimetres), and drape into the pie dish, pressing into the base and edges. Leave the overhang intact for to make adding the lid easier.
  • Gently scoop in the stew, and brush the edge of the crust with egg wash, milk, or water.
  • Roll out the other piece of dough in exactly the same way, and drape over the top. Press together the base and the lid with your fingertips, or a fork. Trim the overhang.
  • Brush the top of the pie with egg wash or milk, and pierce the top to allow steam to escape.
  • Cook in the centre of the preheated oven for about a 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Serve hot with steamed or roasted vegetables.
No blogs on this day in 2016, 2014, or 2013

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