Lockdown Sydney. Winter July 2021.
It’s definitely the time when we need comfort food, preferably something warming and hearty. Pies are perfect!
This one has my go-to beef filling, a lovely casserole of slow cooked beef and tomato. And to make it easy, a simple crust of shop bought puff pastry – all butter if you can get it.
It’s rustic – no need to be too fiddly in the presentation!
500g shin (gravy) beef or chuck steak or blade steak if you can’t get shin
1 dessertspoon plain flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium brown onions, chopped
2 – 4 shallots (more or less depending on the size of the shallots), chopped
2 x 400g tins whole peeled tomatoes
I large tomato, roughly chopped
200 mls red wine
1 tinful of water
1 tablespoon molasses
1 dessertspoon Worcestershire sauce
Sea salt, black pepper
A bay leaf
A few springs thyme
Few sprigs rosemary
For the pastry – 2 sheets of all butter puff pastry + free-range egg, beaten, for brushing the pastry
Preheat oven to 140 degrees C.
Place the beef into a ziplock bag with the flour, close and shake the bag to coat the beef pieces in the flour. Heat a heavy based cast iron casserole on the stovetop. Add two tablespoons of oil to the casserole.
Add half of the beef pieces and cook for a minute or two to brown the meat, turning to make sure all sides get the heat. This is just to caramelise the meat. Remove the pieces from the casserole and set aside. Add the other half of the beef and caramelise in the same way, removing from the casserole once browned.
Add the other tablespoon of oil, and add the the chopped onions and shallots. Fry over a medium heat until the onions and shallots are softened, about 3-5 minutes. Return the meat to the casserole.
Add the tinned tomatoes, roughly breaking up into the casserole. Add the chopped fresh tomato. Stir in the red wine, and using one of the tomato tins, add a tinful of water. Stir in the molasses and Worcestershire sauce. Season with a sea salt and black pepper. Tie up the bay leaf, thyme and rosemary with an elastic band or a piece of string, to make a bouquet garnis, and put into the casserole mixture.
Making sure the mixture is simmering, carefully remove the casserole to the preheated oven. Cook for 3 hours, or until the beef is tender and almost falling apart. You should check after 2 hours, just in case the casserole has cooked a bit dry. If so, you can add some more water. As a general rule, it’s pretty hard to overcook this cut of beef, so 2 1/2 – 3 hours is usually about the right time.
Remove the casserole from the oven, remove the bouquet garnis, and cool to room temperature.
Making the Pie
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Remove bought puff pastry from the fridge. You will need a pie dish, tin or mould, 18cms or 20cms in diameter. Cut the pastry from each sheet, into two pieces, one slightly bigger than the other. The bigger round should be at least big enough to fit into the pie dish, covering the base and sides. The other round will need to cover the top of the pie.
Ease the bottom pastry round into the dish. You can trim off any excess from around the edge.
Now it’s time to fill the pie. You won’t need all the filling – fill with enough of the meat mixture to fit comfortably into the pastry. Brush the edge of the pastry with the beaten egg.
Take the second, smaller round of pastry, cutting or stretching to the size of the top of the pie, making sure you have enough pastry to overlap the top of the pie. You can always trim the excess. Place over the filling, making sure the top pastry meets the bottom pastry all around the pie. Seal the the top and bottom of the pastry by pushing down around the edge with the prongs of a fork.
I did a bit of fancy scoring on the top of the pie (see photo) but it’s not really necessary.
Brush the top of the pie all over with beaten egg, before putting the pie into the hot oven. Cook for 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove from the oven.
Serve in big slices with a green salad, your sauce of choice and some crusty bread. A glass of red wine goes down well too!