The chicken pie we made to his recipe was a thing of beauty. Would his Aunty Mary's beef pie be as good?
Whereas the chicken pie recipe called for ready-made puff pastry this time John advocates a home made lard pastry which looked simple and struck me as a better match for the beefy pie filling. (The puff pastry was spot on for the chicken pie).
John Torode's Aunty Mary's Crusted Slow-Cooked (Beef) Pie
2 kg stewing steak (skirt, shin, brisket, cheek or tail) trimmed of excess fat but leave in all the gristle, then cut into 3 cm cubes
80 grams plain flour
salt and pepper
50 ml vegetable oil
2 large onions, roughly chopped
1 litre stock or water
50 ml Worcestershire sauce
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
200 grams lard, at room temperature
400 grams self-raising flour, salted
1 pinch salt
180 ml cold water
1 egg (for glaze)
a little milk (for glaze)
Note: With no tips on what size pie dish to use, we looked at the volume of meat and decided to halve the recipe. We used the kilo of beef cheeks we had in the freezer, left over from Pascal Aussignac's Cuisinier Gascon braised ox cheeks recipe. We used water in place of stock.
- Shake the meat and the flour in a plastic bag with some salt and pepper – a quick way of coating the meat in the flour with no mess.
- Heat a cast-iron or other heavy-based pan over medium heat and add the oil. When hot, fry the onions for about 3 minutes. Add the floured meat and cook until coloured, about 10 minutes.
- Pour in the stock or water and add the Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and cook for about 2 hours.
- Add the potatoes and cook gently for a further 1 hour.
- Meanwhile make the pastry. Rub the lard into the flour and salt, or put into a food processor and mix, until resembling breadcrumbs. Add the water bit by bit and mix to form a dough. Let rest for 20 minutes.
- Check the meat – when ready it will be soft and break apart when squeezed. The sauce should be rich and thick. Season as necessary.
- Heat the oven to 190 C.
- Three quarters fill an oven proof dish with the meat mixture.
- Roll out the pastry to 3 cm thick and cut into a shape large enough to cover the top of the dish.
- Beat the egg and milk together and brush over the rim of the dish (we omitted this step).
- Press the edges of the pastry down firmly.
- Brush the pastry with the egg wash (we omitted this step).
- Cut a small hole in the middle to allow steam to escape.
- Bake for 40 minutes. If the edges of the pastry become too brown, protect with some foil.
- Remove from oven and eat!
The recipe and instructions are precise, clear and straightforward to follow. The only additional information I would have liked is an idea of the size of pie dish required – it's difficult, without experience, to estimate volume of filling just from the list of ingredients.
With so few ingredients, I had wondered whether the filling would be a bit bland but I needn't have worried.
The beef was very tender. The richly meaty gravy had just the right thick, glutinous consistency. The potatoes retained their shape but were soft all the way through. All in all it was a very tasty pie filling. The pastry was firm on top and softer underneath, where the moisture of the beef stew gave it a touch of gooeyness.
This was a mighty fine pie!
There are a number of other recipes in the book that are on my list to try including beef skewers with a peanut and coconut satay sauce, cevapcici (Yugoslavian sausages) and anchovy, fontina and meat sauce calzone.
Thanks to Quadrille for my review copy.
John Torode's Beef, published by Quadrille, is currently available on Amazon for £8.99. (RRP £14.99)