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!
A 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.
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
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
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.
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!