Steak and Wye Valley Brewery ale pie

April 23, 2012

For St George's day- Steak and ale pie made with English Wye Valley Brewery
ale.. with a union jack crust as a nod to the Scottish beef I used and the Welsh location
of my kitchen!

This pie is a really nice winter warmer, and although we're well in to Spring the April showers are making me feel a bit wintry! Prompted by St George's day, I wanted to make a real English classic and after a bit of a vote, steak pie came out as a real English favourite. The ale I've used in the pie is another Pengethley Farm Shop purchase, it's blonde pale ale from Wye Valley Brewery called HPA- Hereford pale ale. Its a lot lighter than many ales I've had before and creates a really rich sauces for the steak with slightly sweet honey type notes on the palate. The pie is topped with proper puff pastry, now I have nothing against buying puff pastry for day to day cooking but when its something special it's really nice to know you've made it all yourself.


Make 2 individual or one large pie for 2 people, plus some left over pastry which can be frozen.

For the filling-

400g stewing steak
4/5 big white mushrooms
1 red onion
1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
a splash of balsamic vinegar
1 500ml bottle of ale (minus one swig to make sure it's safe to use.... )

For the puff pastry-

110g plain flour
15g lard
75ml cold water
75g butter
pinch of salt

The cooking method for the filling of this pie is low and slow, the stewing steak needs time to become meltingly tender and for the fat in the meat to render into the sauce. So I start the cooking in a cast iron or oven safe pan with a lid then transfer it to a low oven for a good couple of hours.

Take the butter than you intend to use in your pastry out of the oven and place it near to the hob, not so that it will melt but just to bring it up to room temperature by the time you've finished preparing the pie filling.

Roughly chop the onion and the mushrooms then drizzle a little cooking oil into your pan on a high heat and add the garlic. Give the garlic about 30 seconds to infuse into the oil but not to colour in the heat then add the onions and the mushrooms. Give the vegetables a stir then leave to fry, checking on them occasionally whilst you chop your stewing steak. Some stewing steak will come pre-cut which is fine and save times, if you need to cut your own then make sure you cut it into really chunky bite sized pieces, you want the steak filling to be really meaty with a good texture rather than a meat sauce.

When the mushrooms and onions have become soft and translucent, add your steak and turn it over a few time to colour. The steak and mushrooms will release a lot of natural juices, I like to add the steak after the vegetables so that it become infused with this mushroom juice. Cook all of the natural liquid away on a high heat and continue to fry the beef, onions and mushrooms for a further few minutes to give the beef a good golden colour.

Once the beef is well coloured splash in a little balsamic vinegar, this will bubble and reduce quickly to a syrup. The vinegar give the finished filling a very rich note whilst cutting through the heaviness of the beef. Now add in half of the ale, it will bubble up from the heat and it own fizz, let this die down a little then turn the heat down low and leave to bubble.

Turn your oven on now to 150c, by the time it has come up to temperature the steak filling will be ready to be covered and popped in the oven. For me this is a dish that is not done in a rush, either on a Sunday or when I'm doing a special meal, I like to give it a good two hours in the oven to really get all melty and delicious. Check it about half way through the cooking time and add in the rest of the ale so that the meat remain covered in liquid, make sure you do this with a good hour still to go in your cooking time so that the ale has time to reduce and sweeten.

Whilst your pie filling is cooking you can prepare your pastry, again this is not a quick recipe, though it's not particularly tricky or time consuming in its actual preparation there is a lot of hanging about in between folding.

Pour your flour into a large bowl and sprinkle over a pinch of salt and break in the lard, using your finger tips crush the lard into the flour until it is all crumbly like wet sand. Add in the water bit by bit until the crumbs form together in a dough, kneed the dough just enough to bring it together in one dough ball but not too much or it'll make your finished pastry tough.

Encase your dough in clingfilm and pop it in the fridge, it needs to be left for half an hour.. but I'm a bit impatient with chilling dough so i put it in the freezer for 5. I have not found this to affect the finished dough but do not forget it is there of you'll have to wait for it to thaw which will take even longer than putting it in the fridge in the first place!

Whilst your dough chills, lay out a 30cm length of greaseproof paper on a flat surface. Place your butter on top of the paper then over with another piece of paper of equal size. Now using a rolling pin press and roll out your butter between the two sheets of greaseproof until you have a sheet of butter about 1/2 a cm thick. If your butter is not very yielding then use the palm of your hands to smooth it out, the warmth of your palm should soften the butter enough to make it a little more willing.

Take your dough out of its cold resting place and roll out until about 1 cm thick, place the butter sheet in the centre of the pastry. If the pastry is larger than the butter sheet, fold the edge of the pastry up over the butter so it's well tucked in. Now fold the dough as you might a letter, in three sections, fold the right hand side over so that it doesn't quite reach the left side then fold the left side so that it meets the new folded edge on the right hand side.

Cover your pastry with its butter filling with clingfilm and chill again, the pastry needs to feel quite stiff and cold before you roll it our again.. choose your chiller the fridge or the choice if yours!

When the pastry is chilled remove it, three-fold and roll it out then three-fold it again, return to the chiller until stiff. Repeat this process at least 3 times, the more time you do the more layer of butter you will dispersed through your pastry and the lighter and crispy it will be when baked. I usually do this about 4 or 5 times to get a good light pastry that rises nicely.

To build your pie spoon a generous portion into a nice pie dish then cut a pieces of pastry to cover the top, brush the rim of the pie dish with egg or milk to create a seal. Then place the pastry over the top of your filling and pat down the sides of the pastry so it's stuck well. Use some off cuts of pastry to decorate the top of your pie, aside form looking nice it means you get to eat more butter pastry!

Bake in an oven at 180c for about 20-30 mins depending on the thickness of your pastry, it needs to be golden and puffed up beautifully. Serve with mash or chips with a lovely fresh green vegetable for a really great patriotic dinner!

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