Tuesday 2 September 2014

Sorta Stroganoff Pie

I was so bowled over by the discovery of how easy it is to make shortcrust pastry, that I can’t really stop making pies now. I can finally truly appreciate what The Oatmeal was talking about. This recipe is different enough from the Smoked Salmon and Leek Pie that I felt it deserved an entry.

Any excuse for pie is good enough for me!

    Cube chuck steak and toss it in well seasoned flour. Fry in a pot, removing when browned all over. Dice a couple of onions and a few cloves of garlic and fry them in the same pot until softened. Cut up a handful of rosemary and add, followed by chopped carrot. Add a decent amount of Worcestershire sauce and a little red wine to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Return the meat to the mix, pour in a couple glasses more of the wine, cover and simmer. Pour one for yourself and find a good book.

    After a few chapters (about an hour and a half), sieve flour into a bowl and grate in half its weight in butter (editor’s note: half your weight in butter, while awesome, may prove fatal). Sprinkle in a little salt, mix with a knife, then add some cold water. Mix and mould it into a ball with your hands, wrap in cling film and leave it in the fridge for 30 mins.

    Uncover the pot, add some crème fraîche and let it thicken. Get out the pastry and pull off about a third of it. Roll out both pieces. Grease a pie dish, line it with the larger piece of pastry and fill it with the sauce. Brush egg on the edge and cover with the smaller piece of pastry, making a lid. Seal the edges, pierce the top with a fork, brush with more egg and bake in the oven at 170ºC for 30-40 mins. Tell nobody you made pie. Eat all evidence.

Being honest, that sounds like a pretty terrible dessert…

What? No! No no no! Pies are… this is a savoury pie!


For the Pastry:
  • 250g plain flour
  • 125g butter
  • pinch of salt

For the Filling:
  • 500g cheap beef (like chuck or brisket)
  • 2 onions
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 carrots
  • a few sprigs of rosemary
  • half a bottle of red wine
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 100ml crème fraîche
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 tbsp plain flour

This one is a true pie, in that the filling is fully enclosed in pastry. For a cheaper, heartier twist, replace the wine and crème fraîche with a can of Guinness. Any stout will do, but I’m Irish, so I’m contractually obligated to suggest Guinness.

    To start this off, we’ll prepare the filling. Begin by cutting your meat into equal sized chunks. 1.5cm cubes is probably a good idea, but don’t break out a ruler or anything. Size isn’t that important. It’s what you do with it that counts. Like dredging it in seasoned flour. Put the flour into a plastic bag or just a bowl, along with plenty of salt and pepper. At this point you can also add any other spice that you might like, such as paprika, or cayenne for a kick. I kept it simple for this recipe, but feel free to mix it up.

    Toss the meat in the flour, getting it completely coated. There are a couple of reasons to dredge meat like this before frying it. One is that it creates a flavoured, crusted surface, without having to toughen the actual meat, but that’s more useful when cooking fish, or thin steaks. In sauces such as this, it’s mostly a way of introducing flour to the pot, which thickens the eventual gravy. But it also flavours the meat, just like seasoning it without the flour would. It’s basically killing two delicious birds with one floury stone.

    Once the beef is floured, throw it into a large pot with some oil heated in it. Fry until the meat is browned all over, then take it out and leave it aside. Browning and removing meat is a way of getting the richer flavour that develops when meat burns slightly (think char-grilled), without risking over-cooking it. If you added it with the other ingredients, it would steam rather than fry, because of all the moisture in the overcrowded pot. If you left it in while you fried the rest, it would dry up like my writing skills.

Wow. Three paragraphs to say what could be summed up in two sentences. That’s a personal best. Alright, class dismissed. Let’s just focus on the cooking.

    Chop up the onion and garlic nice and small while the meat is frying. You want them to melt into the gravy by the end, so the smaller the better. Tip them into the pot after you’ve removed the beef and fry, stirring, until soft. Meanwhile, strip the leaves off of your rosemary and chop them finely. Peel the carrot and cut into small chunks. Add both of these to the onion and garlic and continue frying for a minute or two.

    Pour half a glass of the wine along with the Worcestershire sauce into the pot and use the liquid to help you scrape up the tasty bits of fried stuff stuck to the base. Add the meat back in, along with the rest of the wine, and bring it to a simmer. Turn the heat down low, put a lid on the pot and leave it to stew for two hours.

    After an hour and a half, make the pastry. Aside from the quantities, it’s the exact same as for the Smoked Salmon and Leek Pie, and I’ll be damned if I’m finding another way to write all that out again. Leave it in the fridge for half an hour.

    Turn the oven on to 170ºC. Pour the crème fraîche into the stewing beef and give it a good stir, then leave it to thicken with the lid off. Take the pastry out of the fridge and tear off one third of it. Roll out both parts, making sure they don’t stick to the counter by using plenty of flour and flipping or moving them around regularly. About half a centimetre is a good thickness to aim for, but really the important part is that they fit your pie dish. The smaller sheet needs to be slightly larger than the circumference of the top of the dish. Grease the pie dish with some butter and drape the larger piece of pastry into it, lining the whole way up the sides and a little over the edge.

    Fill it up with the beef stew, then beat an egg and brush the edges of the pastry with it. Lay the final sheet of pastry on top, forming the lid. Pinch all around the edge with your fingers to seal it shut. Get extra kudos for making it look all ridged and fancy. Wipe the whole thing with egg (so that it glazes the pastry when it cooks), then pierce the surface in a few places with a fork (so that it doesn’t glaze the oven when it cooks). If you have any leftover pastry trimmings, get artsy and decorate the top with little pastry shapes. As I’m extremely artistic, you’ll notice that I went for triangles, nature’s most creative shape. I defy you to do better.

    Now all you have to do is put that magnum opus in the oven. After about 30-40 minutes, it’ll have turned a beautiful golden brown and be crispy around the edges. While it cools, remind yourself that all art is fleeting. Then slice it up and scoff it down.

(If you misjudge the size of your pie dish, don’t worry. Too small? Divide up the remaining pastry and filling and make a second, mini pie. Too large? It doesn’t have to come all the way up to the edge, so just sit the pastry lid into the dish. For reference, my pie dish was about 20cm across and 7cm deep.)

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