My darling husband seldom makes meal requests, so when he does, I try my best to provide exactly what he’s asked for. Some people think making pies is all a bit much work and prefer to buy a ready-made one, but I prefer the labour of love (and this one includes a little labour if you count the cooking time) and satisfaction of knowing it’s a wholesome, healthy meal instead of one filled with all sorts of preservatives and suspicious contents.
Recently he asked for a pie, a beef pie to be exact, with lovely big succulent chunks of gently cooked meat – and I was really glad he did. Don’t think this is one of those quick and easy throw-it-together-in-20-minutes kind of meals, cos it definitely isn’t. But the effort and time spent on it is worthwhile. Another positive is that you can use a relatively cheap cut of meat, like shin, chuck or blade steak packed full of flavour which a longer cooking time helps to develop. I also enjoy the fact that most of the ingredients listed are pantry or freezer staples, so no special or expensive trips to the supermarket.
I began preparing everything on the one night, leaving it to cook for a few hours peacefully and unhurried and then finished it off the next night. I suppose cooking it all in one go on a Saturday or Sunday would work, but I found the enjoyment being in two shorter installments instead of feeling like I had a cooking marathon ahead of me. I doubled the quantities and then froze half of the mixture so another pie in the making already planned for the future, only having to defrost the mixture, place it in the pastry and pop it into the oven. The quantities listed below is the standard recipe and serves 4 – 6 (unless you’re feeding my husband – he ate almost half of it himself :)).
2 Tbsp olive oil
750 g beef chuck steak, cut into 2 cm pieces
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
½ cup red wine
1½ cups beef stock
1 cup water
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or ½ tsp dried)
250 g button mushrooms, chopped
1 Tbsp each: cornflour, water
2 sheets savoury short pastry
1 – 2 sheets puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten
- Heat a little oil in a large heavy-based pan or casserole dish that can stand direct stove-top heat.
- Add half of the meat and cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes until it is well browned.
- Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. Brown the second lot of meat, adding a little more oil if necessary. Remove and add to the first lot of meat.
- Reduce the heat to low, add a little more oil if necessary and add the onion to the pan. Cook, stirring every so often, for a few minutes until the onion has softened.
- Add the garlic and cook for a further minute or so – just to soften it and release the fragrance, you don’t want to colour the garlic.
- Add the red wine, bring to the boil and allow to boil for a couple of minutes until the wine has reduced by half.
- Add the beef chunks back to the pan/casserole dish, along with the stock, water, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to the boil, cover and reduce the heat to low.
- Simmer for 2 hours or until the meat is very tender, stirring occasionally. (As I had doubled the mixture, I cooked it for a little over 4 hours).
- Add the mushrooms and simmer for a further 30 – 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Combine the cornflour and water and stir it into the meat mixture. Cook, stirring, until the mixture boils and thickens.
- Remove the pan/casserole from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is completely cold.And this is where I stopped, only to pick up with step 12 the following night.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Grease and flour a 20 cm x 24 cm pie dish.
- Line the dish with the savoury short pastry sheets (either home made or store bought, it doesn’t matter), joining where necessary.
- Spoon the cold beef mixture into the dish.
- Cover the top of the pie with the flaky puff pastry, joining where necessary, taking care to push it down gently onto the top of the meat mixture so no air is trapped in between. Trim and press the edges together to seal with the prongs of a fork or your thumbs (use a little water to seal the two pastries together if necessary).
- Cut slits in the top of the pastry to allow the steam to escape so the pastry can crisp up instead of being damp. Add cut out shapes on top if you’re feeling fancy.
- Brush the surface with the beaten egg.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 30 – 40 minutes, or until the top and base of the pie are golden brown.
Serve with seasonal veggies and mashed potatoes or chips – you’ll need something to mop up all that delicious gravy.