Friday 6 March 2015

National Pie Week 2015

So apparently it was National Pie Week this week. (Lets all ignore the fact that I have not posted in a very long time and move on). In honour of this most amazing foodstuff I think all households should make an effort in making a pie this weekend. Could be sweet or savoury, could be British or... Kefalonian - whatever does it for you!

When the weather is warm I can easily go for Greek or Mediterranean version of pies. Spanakopita (spinach pie), courgette pie, saltcod pie - mmmm saltcod pie! But when the weather is like it has been in the UK (rather cold and windy for those that do not live in the UK), then I go for the British style pie, with loads of gravy in it and served with mash.

I have to say that when I first moved to the UK as a student there was a girl in my halls who used to eat a Fray Bentos pie (basically a pie in a tin) every other day. At least it seemed to me to be every other day. Don't get me wrong, my student diet wasn't anything to be proud of either. But seeing that pie - and that was my first experience of a 'British style' pie - made me wonder why anyone would chose to eat something that looked and smelled like dog food...Since then I have come to love gravy filled pies and my tastes have greatly changed since my late teens - for one I actually enjoy eating meat now. But I never braved a Fray Bentos pie; for all I know I am missing out on an amazing culinary experience. But just the memory of what it looked like all those years ago stops me from braving to even pick one up at the supermarket.

Anyway, obviously a homemade pie bares no resemblance to any ready meal and I highly recommend making and sharing one with your family and friends. We opted for a beef, mushroom and ale pie. Can't really go wrong with that, right? Well, unless you are a vegetarian... Both my daughters loved it, which I was rather surprised about - especially as the eldest one declared that she 'hates' pies before she tried it. But all is well that ends well, and pie week ended well for us!

Serves 4 - 6

For the pastry: (Oh dear, I don't want to start a debate on the right type of pastry for pies and everyone is sooo particular about what they like...So go with what you like! I like rough puff for this pie, though I only had time to make shortcrust on a weeknight, so I will give you both recipes).

300 g flour
150 g cold butter cubed
cold water

Rub the flour and cold butter between your fingers to create a crumb texture. Once all the butter is incorporated, add the cold water slowly (about half a glass), till the dough comes together. You do not want it too wet, nor too crumbly. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Rough puff:
My husband is the one who always makes the rough puff pastry and the last time he used Paul Hollywood's recipe. So click here for that.

For the filling:
500 g braising beef in chunks
a handfull of flour
1 large onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
2 large flat mushrooms, roughly chopped
olive oil
250 ml beef stock
330 ml ale (one bottle) - I used IPA, as that is what we had at home and I have to say that though it was fine, it wasn't the best option. A darker ale would suit this dish better.

Pour some oil in a large pan to lightly cover the whole of the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat on high, lightly cover the beef chunks in seasoned flour and add them to the pan. Brown on all sides (do this in batches so you don't 'overcrowd' the pan). Remove the beef once its browned and add the vegetables to the pan and allow to soften for 5-10 minutes. You may need some more oil for this.

Once softened add the ale and deglaze the pan. Add the beef, the stock and seasoning, cover and allow to cook on a low heat for 2-3 hours. Then allow for the filling to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven at 170C (fan oven). Take the pastry out of the fridge and use 1/3 of it for the lid and 2/3 for the bottom. Roll them both out and have them ready. Once the bottom is in the pie dish, spoon the mixture in the dish and cover with the lid. Pinch all around the edges to seal it and cut any excess off. Milk or egg wash and put in the oven immediately to avoid a soggy bottom. Cook for 40 minutes, or until it is nice and golden. Serve with mash and vegetables (we went for cabbage).

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