The ultimate savoury taste of a steak and ale pie I difficult to beat, I love it best when freshly baked: puff pastry layers crackle under the knife, and dark, sticky gravy oozes out onto the edges of the pastry. I love chunky steak, sweet carrots and earthy mushrooms. I love rich saucy gravy edging slowly across my plate, muddling with muddling with creamy, buttery mashed potato. Drooling yet? I am.
The pie in question is in the oven: the final stage in a long journey towards the indulgent mouthfuls. It smells wonderful, and I can just see the pastry beginning to rise under the warm glow of the oven. Potatoes are boiling softly in a pan; the butter and milk is on standby to create the perfect mash while the potato is still hot; and peas sit ready to cook: little bursts of sweetness in such a savoury, hearty dish. Some of the gravy has been saved out of the pie filling before adding the pastry, and it bubbles gently in a frying pan, just keeping hot. The kitchen smells warm, inviting, of home. My stomach rumbles in anticipation.
With the first forkful comes a surge of flavour and texture: crisp pastry, melting steak, soft mash, and of course the sweet peas. The meat all but falls apart as I load my fork – and I mean load. This isn’t a dainty meal. (Please excuse me for a few minutes while I devour this beautiful plateful of food.)
As you might have guessed, steak and ale pie is one of my absolute favourite dinners, and one that I always crave at this time of year. I can’t resist when it appears on country pub menus and it’s well worth the effort to make at home. I want tender meat and the richest flavour I can muster, so if I have the time to go, the steak is from the butcher. It’s lean, in thick chunks, and there is plenty of it. The ale I’ve used in this recipe is Bath Gem, but any ale will do. If you get a bottle there will be a bit left over for drinking, too… The only thing I do compromise on a bit is the pastry, purely because I don’t often have the time to make puff pastry, when I can buy it conveniently from the supermarket (lazy, I know, but it really does help when I’m baking after work!) and really, it bakes just as well!
So, with my ingredients lovingly selected, preparation needs to be quick. This recipe is a slow burner, and really does need all the time you can throw at it to make it really delicious. The filling is slow cooked in a casserole (or slow cooker) for 2 hours at least, then baked as a pie for another 30 minutes. Any less time on the filling and you’re risking chewy steak. Just not good. The more time you cook it for, the softer it will be, and the better the flavour – 6 hour pie, anyone? If you have a slow cooker, this is its moment of glory!
Steak and Bath Gem Pie Recipe
Serves 2, cooking time 2½ – 3 hours
You will need:
300g stewing steak, in 3cm chunks
4 small carrots, peeled and sliced into circles
6 large mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tbsp plain flour
250ml Bath Gem ale
1 beef stock pot (Knorr rich beef ones are great here!)
1 bouquet garnis (basically a herb tea bag)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 pack ready to roll puff pastry
Preheat the oven to 180°.
Brown the steak in the olive oil, in a casserole pot over a medium heat.
Add the plain flour and mix well, coating each piece of meat evenly.
Add the ale, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, bouquet garnis and stock pot. Season with the pepper. Mix well.
Pour in just enough water to cover the meat and veggies, then cover and bring to the boil.
Turn down the heat and simmer for 2 – 2½ hours over a low heat.
Roll out the pastry to 1 cm thick, and cut around the pie dish.
Once the filling is cooked, pour into the pie dish. Save a bit of the gravy for serving the pie later.
Cut a hole in the centre of the pastry to let steam escape, and brush with a little milk.
Bake for 30 mins.
Heat the remaining gravy through in a frying pan, and serve the pie with mash and veggies!