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Category Archives: Slow Cooked Food

Chunky Beef Pie

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!

Ingredients
Beef Filling

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

Method
Filling

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!

Winter Warmers – Isolation Cooking

We’re in lockdown in Sydney, so it’s back to isolation cooking!

The weather is chilly, so perfect for some hearty fare. I found 4 dishes that fit that description, all cheerful and easy to make. Chilli beef, Yorkshire pudding, treacle glazed steak and chicken risotto.

Here are the links.

Chilli Beef: https://thequirkandthecool.com/2021/02/20/easy-chilli-beef/

Giant Yorkshire Pudding:https://thequirkandthecool.com/2020/05/08/yorkshire-pudding-with-smoked-salmon-jamie-oliver/

Treacle Glazed Barbecue Steak:https://thequirkandthecool.com/2017/06/09/treacle-glazed-barbecue-steak/

Chicken, Leek and Asparagus Oven Risotto:https://thequirkandthecool.com/2020/03/29/chicken-leek-and-asparagus-oven-risotto/

Beef and Ale Casserole with Cheesy Dumplings

Ingredients

Casserole

1 tablespoon plain flour

500g casserole beef cut into small pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely

1 large onion, chopped finely

2-3 carrots, cut into chunks

500mls stout or ale or beer

1 x 400g tin whole peeled tomatoes

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Salt and black pepper

1/2 teaspoon sugar to season

Bouquet garnis – bay leaf, a few sprigs of thyme and rosemary, tied together

Dumplings

125g self-raising flour

69g cold butter

3/4 cup grated cheese

Method
Pre-heat oven to 140 degrees C.

Dust the beef pieces in the flour and place them in a zip lock bag and shake. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed casserole on the stove top.

Fry the beef in small quantities to avoid “stewing” the meat, until brown on all sides. Remove the beef to a plate, add a little more oil to the pan if necessary, and fry the garlic and onion. Add the carrots and lightly brown.

Return the meat to the casserole. Add the stout, ale or beer. Add the tomatoes, roughly chopping as you mix it in. Fill the tomato tin with water and add to the casserole.

Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and sugar.

Place the bouquet garnis into the casserole.

Cook on a medium heat with lid off for 5 minutes, then transfer the casserole, with lid on, to the pre-heated oven. Cook for about two hours or until beef is very tender. If the beef is still a little tough cook for another half hour.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the dumplings.

Put the flour into a large bowl. Grate the cold butter into the flour. If this is too tricky, just chop it finely. Rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add a splash or two of cold water to help the mixture come together into a dough.

Divide the dough into 12 small balls. Once cooked the balls will swell in size.

Place the dumplings on top of the casserole once the meat is cooked. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the dumplings. Cook, uncovered for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is melted and the dumplings are golden brown.

Serve at once with a crisp green salad!

You can also refrigerate or freeze portions of the casserole.

Roasted Pumpkin Dhal

I am trying to eat more protein and I think it’s good to eat more protein from sources other than meat. So I got inspired on the weekend to go down the lentil path. I’m not that keen on lentils, but lentils in the form of dhal takes them from bland to spicy and very tasty!

The idea for this dish came from watching the hilarious series from Jamie Oliver “Keep Cooking and Carry On”. Jamie made the series in lockdown last year and it’s hilarious as most of the episodes are Jamie cooking at home, filmed on an iPhone with his kids helping (or hindering) the process!

One dish from the show was an eggplant (aubergine) dhal. So I got motivated to make my own version of a tasty dhal dish.

The recipe is pretty easy as I’m using bought curry simmer sauce, so no need for extensive ingredients. It’s a one pot dish too, as you roast the vegetables and then cook the lentils in the one pot or dish. Roasting the veggies has the advantage of giving the dhal a nutty, caramelised flavour.

And my genius if slightly unconventional accompaniments of hard boiled eggs, yoghurt and chutney really make the dish!

Ingredients

Approximately 2 cups cut pumpkin – about half of a small pumpkin or butternut squash

2 onions

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 cup of any good curry simmer sauce or 3 tablespoons of curry paste*

250g any lentils (I used 200g red lentils with 50g split peas as that’s all I had)

1 litre boiling water

400g tin whole tomatoes – cherry tomatoes if you can get them

A handful of fresh cherry tomatoes

2 hard boiled eggs

Chilli flakes

2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt

1 tablespoon mango chutney

Basil leaves or any other herb

*Any sauce or paste is ok – Rogan Josh, Butter Chicken, Korma, Tikka Masala or Tandoori.

Method

Peel the pumpkin and chop into small chunks. Peel the onions and roughly chop. Put the pumpkin and onions into a heavy based pan. Make sure this pan can be used on the stove top and that it has a lid.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Pour over the oil and the simmer sauce (or curry paste). Roughly mix everything together.

Put the pan into the oven lid off and roast for about 30 minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft and the onions are caramelised.

Remove from the oven. Take about half of the roast pumpkin and onions and put into another dish and cover with foil.

Stir the lentils and roast veggies into the boiling water. Add the tinned tomatoes.

Put the pan onto the stovetop on a medium heat. Add the lentils to the pan and the litre of boiling water. Note: if you used curry paste rather than simmer sauce you will need to add another 250 mls or so of water.

Turn the heat to low and simmer the mixture with the lid on, until the lentils are soft and the dhal has thickened, about an hour. It’s hard to say exact how long – you will know when the lentils are cooked and really soft. Add a bit more water if the dhal is too thick or it’s sticking to the pan.

Once the dhal is cooked, remove from the heat. Check the seasoning. If you want it hotter, you could add some chilli flakes or even a spoonful of curry taste.

Stir in the rest of the roasted pumpkin and onion that you put aside. Or you can just place them on top of the dhal without stirring them in.

Serve as is or you could add the extras I used – fresh cherry tomatoes, hard boiled eggs scattered with chilli flakes, some Greek yoghurt and mango chutney. Scatter the dhal with basil leaves or any other fresh herb you have on hand.

Shin Beef Casserole

 


I love slow cooking and I’m a huge fan of casseroles, stews and tagines, where beef, lamb or chicken is cooked long and slow with plenty of veggies and herbs and/or spices.

My go-to beef cut for slow cooking has to be shin beef, called gravy beef in Australia. I cook with it a lot, loving the tenderness and flavour of the meat.

This is a Jamie Oliver recipe from the vault. I have cooked variations many times over, but I thought I would put Jamie’s original version on the blog again for those wanting a great comfort food stew that could easily be served as a ragu with pappardelle pasta.

The original recipe comes from “Cook With Jamie”, and here is the link to the website recipe:

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/beef-recipes/melt-in-your-mouth-shin-stew

Here is my “tweaked” recipe. The most significant change I made is to lower the oven temperature to 150 degrees C. I think long, slow cooking is the way to go with this recipe. (When I blogged this in 2014 I suggested 160 degrees, but 150 degrees is better).

Ingredients

Lug of olive oil

6 eschallots, peeled and roughly chopped

6 baby carrots, trimmed and used whole

2 cloves garlic chopped

A few sprigs of fresh rosemary

1 bay leaf

750g quality shin of beef, trimmed and cut into 5cm pieces

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tbs flour

1 x 400g tinned tomatoes

1/2 bottle red wine

Method

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C.  In a heavy-bottomed casserole, heat a lug of olive oil and gently fry the eschallots, carrots, garlic and herbs for 5 minutes until softened slightly. Meanwhile, toss the pieces of beef in a little seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. Add the meat to the casserole  and stir everything together, then add the tomatoes, wine and a pinch of salt and pepper. Gently bring to the boil, cover with a double-thickness piece of aluminum foil and a lid and place in your preheated oven for 3 hours or until the beef is meltingly tender and can be broken up with a spoon. Taste and check the seasoning, remove the rosemary sprigs and bay leaf.

Serve with pappardelle, polenta, mash or rice.

 

Mrs Beeton’s Christmas Plum Pudding

 



Now I know posting a recipe for Christmas pudding on the day after Christmas is a bit.. well.. late! I made this pudding a few weeks ago and just got too busy with Christmas preparations and baking to post. But I wanted to show this excellent pudding so I am posting while we are still in that Christmas food and festivities zone.

And I’ll blog again next year in time to make the pudding for the big day!

Earlier in December I was lucky enough to attend an online event hosted by the wonderful Sydney Living Museums.

This organisation looks after significant buildings integral to Sydney’s colonial history. Visiting historic houses and public buildings is always a fascinating trip into Sydney’s past.

The demonstration was presented by Jacqui Newling, Assistant Curator and Sydney Living Museums resident expert in food heritage and colonial gastronomy.

I loved watching as Jacqui made the Christmas  pudding and really appreciated her step by step tips and tricks to making the pudding. She has a wealth of knowledge and importantly a really practical common sense approach to cooking.

I had to make the pudding! I made it the next day, and in order to be able to try it before Christmas Day, I made a baby one which I could eat on the same day.

What is amazing about this pudding is that it has no flour and no sugar! Bread replaces flour and the sweetness comes from the dried fruit. I have to admit I was a little dubious about the absence of flour and sugar, but I must say the resulting pudding was sensational! Deep, rich flavours with a strong caramel taste.

We ate the delicious pudding on Christmas Day. I served it with brandy butter, custard and cream – I think it deserved all three accompaniments.

Here is the recipe as presented by Jacqui Newling with her notations and this is the link to the original.

Classic Christmas Pudding

Adapted from Mrs Beeton’s Book of household management, 1861

Note

‘On Christmas-day a sprig of holly is usually placed in the middle of the pudding, and about a wine-glassful of brandy poured round it, which, at the moment of serving, is lighted, and the pudding thus brought to table encircled in flame.’

So says Isabella Beeton in 1861, in her best-selling Beeton’s book of household management (1861). I’ve adapted her ‘Christmas plum pudding (very good)’ for modern measurements, replaced suet with butter, and added some extra spice now synonymous with Christmas.

Serves 12

Ingredients 

750g mixed dried fruit

1 tbsp mixed spice

1 tsp nutmeg or cinnamon

1⁄2 cup fragrant tea or sherry

200g butter, placed in freezer for 1-2 hours

250g freshly made white breadcrumbs (made from a day-old 375g loaf, crusts removed)

6 eggs, well beaten

1⁄2 cup brandy

Equipment

1.5L pudding basin or equivalent smaller bowls
Baking paper cut to diameter of the pudding basin/bowls
Good quality aluminum foil Kitchen string
Grater, chilled in fridge Trivet

Method

1. If the fruit looks a bit dry, soak it with the spices in the tea or sherry overnight or for at least a few hours.
2. Grate the butter into the breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl and mix through with a knife.
3. Add the soaked fruit and spices.
4. Add the beaten eggs and brandy, and encourage everyone in the family to stir the mixture (an old tradition).
5. Grease the pudding bowl with butter and spoon in the mixture, just short of the rim, as the mixture may swell during cooking.
6. Cover the pudding surface with baking paper cut to size, then cover the bowl with two pieces of foil pleated together in the centre – the foil should reach halfway down the bowl – and tie securely with string. The pleat is to allow for any expansion during cooking.
7. Place the pudding bowl on a trivet in a deep saucepan and add enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides to create a water bath.
8. Cover and simmer for several hours, topping up with boiling water as needed (19th-century recipes invariably state
6 hours simmering to ensure a rich colour).
9. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate until required.
Serve with Mrs Beeton’s Plum pudding sauce. You can find the recipe for the sauce here.

 

Christmas Beef Tagine


Christmas festivities are upon us! While there is a lot of traditional baking to be done, I have decided to go down a slightly different path for a dinner tonight that celebrates Christmas from around the world.

As a big fan of tagines, I decided to create a special Christmas Tagine.  Bright with the colours of Christmas, red and green, and deliciously fragrant with Middle Eastern flavours that remind us of the original Christmas story, this beef tagine is full of beautiful veggies too.

Of course, the beef tagine can be eaten at any time of the year! But it can be an alternative to the usual suspects eaten on the day, and would make a great Boxing Day or even New Year’s dish!

I have recently been researching the Keto Diet – not, I hasten to add, on my own behalf – but to better understand what a particular disciple of this low carb program can eat. So I had a go at creating something that might be at least keto friendly,  if not actually following all its tenets. I have certainly got to grips with the idea “above ground vegetables good, below ground vegetables bad”!

Here it is. You could substitute some non keto approved below ground veggies like potatoes or carrots, if you like, but they would need to be added in at the start of the recipe, as they take longer to cook. As prunes aren’t probably that great for the Keto Diet, but do add that traditional sweetness to the tagine, you could halve the amount to get the flavour without too much of the sugar. Or leave them out altogether!

Ingredients

2 teaspoons paprika – sweet

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon sumac

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon pepper corns – cracked in a mortar and pestle

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

500g diced shin beef/chuck steak

4 eshallots  and 4 spring onions, finely chopped

(Or replace both with 2 large onions)

1-2 garlic cloves, to taste, finely chopped

1  x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

175g prunes

1.5 tins water (use the tomato tin as a measure)

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 small eggplant (aubergine), sliced

2 zucchini (courgettes), sliced

100g green olives

Chopped coriander, to decorate

Method

Combine the spices and pepper and salt in a large bowl. Add beef and stir until well coated in the spices. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer.

Preheat oven to 140 degrees C.

Heat a heavy based casserole on the stovetop, and add half the olive oil. Add the chopped shallots and spring onions or ordinary onions and cook them for 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for a further couple of minutes or until the garlic is softened but not browned. Remove all to a plate.

Add the rest of the olive oil to the pan. Tip in the beef and cook over a fairly high heat until evenly browned and caramelised.

Return the shallots/onion/garlic to the casserole. Add the chopped tomatoes, tins of water and stir well. Add the pomegranate molasses. Stir in a third of the prunes. Lay several slices of the eggplant (about a third of the eggplant) on the top of the mixture.  Bring to the boil, then put the lid on and transfer to the oven.

Cook for an hour and a half. Remove from the oven and lay the rest of the eggplant slices and the zucchini slices into the casserole, as well as the rest of the prunes and most of the olives, reserving a few for serving. Cook, covered for a further hour or until the beef is really tender.

If you’re not completely satisfied with the tenderness of the beef pieces, you can cook for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and scatter the remaining olives over the tagine, and some coriander leaves.

The tagine should be looking pretty festive with its tomato red and coriander green, but you could add some sliced cherry tomatoes for a little more red or even, if so inclined, a few slices of red chilli!

Lamb Tagine with Middle Eastern Flavours




Tagines, like casseroles and stews, are great dishes to cook meat long and slow. And slow cooking is fantastic for our Southern Hemisphere chilly nights!

This tagine is made with lamb shoulder and some lovely Middle Eastern spices and fruits. The shoulder needs to be boned and diced – my butcher does that for me. Less labour intensive than doing it for yourself.

The tagine itself is the star – just serve it with couscous or rice or homemade flatbread to soak up the juice.

I make my tagine in a heavy based casserole. You could do this and serve in a tagine if you like.

Ingredients

2 teaspoons paprika – sweet or smoked

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Juice and rind of a mandarin or orange

1 kg diced lamb shoulder

2 eshallots

1 clove of garlic

1  x 425g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 1/2 x tins of water (use the chopped tomatoes tin for this)

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

125g dried apricots

125g pitted prunes

Method

Combine spices and pepper and salt in a large bowl.  Add the oil, rind and juice of the mandarin/orange and stir to form a paste. Add lamb and stir until well coated in the paste. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer.

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C.

Heat a heavy based casserole on the stovetop, and add half the olive oil. Tip in the lamb and cook over a fairly high heat until evenly browned, then tip onto a plate.

Add the remaining olive oil to the casserole and stir in the the eshallots, and then cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for a further couple of minutes or until the garlic is softened but not browned.

Return the browned meat to the casserole. Add the chopped tomatoes, tins of water and stir well. Add the pomegranate molasses. Bring to the boil, then put the lid on and transfer to the oven.

Cook for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and stir in the dried apricots and prunes, roughly chopped. Cook, covered for a further 40 minutes or until lamb is tender.

If you’re not completely satisfied with the tenderness of the lamb you can cook for a further 15 minutes.

Serve with the aforementioned couscous, rice or flatbread. A spoonful of yoghurt is nice too, and some chopped coriander.

Beef, Tomato and Red Wine Pie

 



May 2020. Autumn is about to turn into winter, and we’re still in partial lockdown. The weather is lovely, lots of warm days with crisp nights. Although we can now travel around New South Wales, it’s still nice to stay at home and do lots of winter cooking.

I’m very keen on pies at the moment. They’re great to make ahead and freeze, so there’s always a tasty meal on hand that can be put in the oven and eaten piping hot!

This is a recipe for a meat pie with a rich beef filling. I make a lovely casserole with shin (gravy) beef.   The casserole has lots of tomato and a good splosh of red wine. The casserole is great too, as is, served with baked potato, pasta, rice or polenta.

Once you’ve cooked the filling, you then make some shortcrust pastry. Pop the filling into the pastry and bake. A lovely homemade pie is ready for eating!

note – you can make either the beef filling or the shortcrust pastry well ahead of time, and put the pie together when you actually want to bake it.

Ingredients
Beef Filling

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

Shortcrust Pastry

500g plain flour
Pinch of salt
250g cold butter, diced
Enough iced water to bring the pastry together – about 4 tablespoons
Free-range egg, beaten, for brushing the pastry

Method
Filling

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 3 hours is usually about the right time.

Remove the casserole from the oven, remove the bouquet garnis,  and cool to room temperature.

Shortcrust Pastry 

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and blitz to combine. Add the butter cubes and carefully blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. At this point, add the iced water a little at a time, blitzing after each addition. Only add enough water to get the mixture to start to come together into a ball, you may not need it all. Be very careful not to process too long each time you blitz, as this will overwork the mixture, and make the pastry tough.

Turn the pastry out onto a work surface. Bring the pastry together into a ball, with your hands. Wrap the pastry in cling wrap and chill for at least half an hour in the fridge.

Making the Pie

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Remove pastry from the fridge. You will need a pie dish, tin or mould, 18cms or 20cms in diameter. Cut the pastry into two pieces, one slightly bigger than the other. Roll the bigger piece, for the base of the pie, between 2 sheets of baking paper, into a round at least big enough to fit into the pie dish, covering the base and sides. Ease the pastry into the dish. Don’t worry if the pastry breaks, it’s easy to patch up any gaps. 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 beaten egg.

Take the second, smaller piece of pastry, and roll between pieces of baking paper into another round, 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.

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 or mushy peas and carrots, and a dollop of sauce if you like. I go for Worcestershire or good old tomato ketchup!

Leftover pie can be refrigerated and reheated in the oven. And of course you can freeze portions of the pie too. Defrost them and reheat in the oven. Never microwave the pie, otherwise the pastry ends up limp and pretty unappetising!

Beef Casserole: Isolationist Cooking in the Covid 19 Era

We are living in strange times, in the era of Covid 19. Like a lot of people, I am spending time at home, socially isolating to avoid unnecessary contact with people. I am shopping carefully, stocking up on staples, without going overboard, and thinking about what dishes I can cook with what’s in the freezer and pantry, and don’t require last minute shopping.

I will post a few of these recipes over the next few weeks. To start with, here’s a recipe for a beautiful beef and red wine casserole. I recommend buying some good slow cooking beef cuts and freezing for just this kind of recipe. The other ingredients that are not pantry staples are carrots and onions, and thankfully these can be acquired and then will last quite a long time, ie you can buy and keep on hand for a couple of weeks until you need them.

I began to write this recipe at the end of a Sydney summer, but it soon became apparent it would be a great start to my “isolationist cooking”.

It’s late March 2020 in Sydney. Just a month ago we were sweltering in a hot, hot bushfire summer with humid days and even stickier nights, when the temperature overnight barely dropped a degree or two, making sleeping and living difficult.

But the rain came and the cooler weather with it. Autumn is definitely in the air. While we will have plenty of warm days to come, there is enough cool weather to make me feel like starting some autumn cooking: cakes and tarts with autumn fruits, and nourishing, robust casseroles, rich with root vegetables and red wine.

This is a simple beef casserole recipe that I developed from the memory of many family meals and my own efforts at throwing a few things in a pot and coming up with something tasty!

Beef + onions + carrots + red wine + herbs = a pot of deliciousness.

Here’s the basic recipe. For the beef, any cheap cut of beef is great. My preference is for shin (gravy) beef, but that cut is hard to get in Australia. Chuck steak is good, as well as blade beef.


Ingredients

1 tablespoon plain flour
Sea salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
500g casserole beef cut into small pieces
4 shallots or 1 large onion, chopped
4 -6 baby or small carrots, cut into chunks or keep whole if small enough
1 tin whole peeled tomatoes
1 glass red wine
1 teaspoon vegemite or marmite dissolved in 1/2 cup boiling water
Bouquet garnis – bay leaf, a few sprigs of thyme and rosemary, tied together
A pinch of sugar to season

Method
Pre-heat oven to 140 degrees C.

Dust the beef pieces in the flour and salt and pepper by placing them in a zip lock bag and shake. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed casserole on the stove top.

Fry the beef in small quantities to avoid “stewing” the meat, until brown on all sides. Remove the beef to a plate, add a little more oil to the pan if necessary, and fry the shallots and carrots.

Return the meat to the casserole. Add the tomatoes, roughly chopping as you mix in to the casserole. Add the red wine and vegemite/marmite and water and the pinch of sugar.

Cook on a medium heat with lid off for 5 minutes, then transfer the casserole, with lid on, to the pre-heated oven. Cook for about 3 hours or until beef is very tender. I check after 2 hours and test the ”doneness” of the beef. It is usually a little chewy and needs further cooking. If the beef is cooked to your liking, by all means serve now.

If there is lot of liquid in the stew, now is the time to leave the lid off and return to the oven.

Remove from the oven when finally cooked, and serve. Or the casserole can be refrigerated or frozen until you are ready to use.

I like to serve the beef casserole with rice or couscous or some potatoes baked in their jackets.

A really tasty recipe that not only is easy to make from the pantry and freezer but it’s a lovely way to spend time in these isolationist times.

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