Serves 6 adults or 4 adults and 4 kids
For the pie filling:
- 800g beef, diced (stewing/braising/skirt - anything that is suitable and enhanced for long, slow cooking)
- 2 sticks celery, chopped
- 4 large carrots, chopped
- 2 large onions, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp oil
- 200g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
- 200g smoked bacon, chopped or use lardons
- 2tsp sugar
- 4tbsp plain flour
- Salt and pepper
- 300ml dark ale
- 2 beef stock cubes, made with 400ml boiling water
- small bunch thyme
- small bunch parsley
For the pastry:
- 650g plain flour
- 250g cold butter (or lard, or a mixture of the two), plus extra for greasing
- 200ml ice-cold water
- 1 egg yolk, beaten, to glaze
For the gravy (optional):
- dash of balsamic vinegar
- teaspoon of marmite
1. Pre-heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Firstly, chop all of your veggies and set them to one side. Then, heat a large heavy-bottomed casserole pan on a high heat, and glug in some of your oil. Brown your beef in batches. Be careful not to overload your pan, ad the meat won't brown properly. Once a batch is nicely browned all over, remove with a slotted spoon and pop in a bowl and set to one side. When all of the beef in browned, reduce the heat to low. Drizzle in a bit more oil. Add your celery, carrots and onions to the pan, and cook slowly for around 5 minutes, until starting to soften. Scatter over the sugar, flour and season well with salt and pepper. Sizzle for another few minutes, stirring really well, until the flour turns brown. Tip your browned beef, and any collected juices in the bottom of the bowl, back into the pan. Pour over your ale and stock and give it a really good stir. Tie the bunches of herbs together (if you don't have any string use a piece of clingfilm as a tie) and tuck into the mixture. Bring it to a simmer, cover with a lid and pop into the oven. It will need to cook for around 2 hours, or until the meat is really tender.
2. Whilst your stew is cooking, heat another drizzle of oil in a large frying pan on a high heat. Add in the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove from the pan and ass in your mushrooms. Fry until golden. Set to one side with the bacon.
3. To make the pastry, crumble to flour and butter/lard together with a pinch of salt. The best way to do this is to cube your butter/lard, and then rub it into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles slightly wet sand. Add up to 200ml of ice-cold water until the mixture comes together. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and give a very quick need. Really, all you want to do is to make sure the ingredients are combined properly, rather than knead it completely. Too much kneading can ruin your dough, so just a quick knead is required. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for at least an hour.
4. When you are ready to assemble the pie, heat oven to 220/200C fan/gas 7. Grease a 24-27cm pie dish well, and sprinkle with flour. Cut a third off the pastry and set to one side. Roll out the remaining 2/3 of pasty to a thick-ish round that will cover the base and sides of your pie dish. Take your stew mixture, and stir through your bacon and mushroom mixture, and discard the herb bunch. With a slotted spoon, spoon the stew into the pie dish. You want the filling to rise slightly higher in the centre than the side of the dish. Pop the juice from the stew to one side, and any other stew mixture can be frozen to use another day to make pasties. If there is any stew left, pop to one side. Roll our your remaining 1/3 of pasty to make your pie lid, and place on top of your pie. You can either cut off the over hang of pastry and then pinch the edges with your thumb and fingers to make a nice edge, or you can use a fork all the way around the edge to seal the base and lid together too.
5. Roll out your remaining pastry scraps to make decorations for the top of your pie, and then glaze your pie with the beaten egg yolk. Use a knife to poke a few slits in the top of your pie to let the steam escape during cooking. Place your pie on a baking sheet to catch any juices that bubble over, and pop into the oven for 40 mins, or until golden on top.
6. Heat up the left over stew juices with a bit of water to loosen and season again in necessary. You can use this as a delicious gravy to serve with your pie. Optional, but really tasty, is to add a dash of balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of marmite to the gravy when heating it up to add a depth of flavour, and make it a bit different to your pie filling.
7. Serve your pie with yummy peas or green leafys, and your delicious gravy in a jug to pour over the crispy pastry. Enjoy!