We’re at the business end of winter down here in the Southern Hemisphere – it’s just the sort of weather where you want to hunker down and chow down some comfort food. And it doesn’t get more ‘comfort’ than this Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie recipe from Jamie Oliver.
This pie is pretty spectacular (my oldest brother deemed it the best pie he’d ever eaten!), and it can be easily adapted to suit different tastes and dietary needs (e.g. you could reduce the amount of cheese you use, as I did, or cut it out altogether, and maybe choose a lighter beer or use stock instead). I kept pretty much to the basic recipe, though I did adapt here and there. The biggest change was in the pastry department – instead of using store-bought pastry as per the recipe, I went with a home-made pastry and, always up for a new experience, tried a rough puff pastry. And… boy oh boy, it was a cracker! I was so excited by my discovery that at the last minute I decided to make a double crust rather than a single crust, which was a bold move as I didn’t have quite enough pastry, having halved the recipe in preparation for a ‘lid’ only, so forgive the rustic appearance!
Other than the pastry, I played around with the flavours in the stew itself – personally I found the beer taste a little bitter for my liking (not helped by my choosing a dark Stout), so added some ingredients to increase the sweetness – a bit of tomato puree, some dark muscovado sugar and even a teaspoon of cocoa. I also added a dash of pouring cream, which lightened up the stew just a tad. I haven’t altered the recipe below however, as I think everyone’s tastes are different, but I do encourage you to experiment if you’re not quite happy with the resulting flavour.
Now, two final suggestions to end. If you decide on a double-crust, ensure the meat is cold before piling it onto the pastry – the last time I made this, I piled hot meat mixture onto the pastry and got… you guessed it… a soggy bottom. It also helps if you can bake the pie on a pizza stone or pre-heated oven tray so that you can get that bottom pastry cooked as quickly as possible. Lastly, if you can, take the stress off yourself and make the meat mixture a day ahead – it does take a fair whack of time to make, and may take longer (as mine did) if your meat is a little dry. All I did on the day we ate the pie, was to make the puff pastry in the morning and then simply assemble it all in the afternoon. Easy peasy.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 medium red onions, peeled and chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 sticks celery, trimmed and chopped
- 4 field mushrooms, peeled and sliced
- 1 kg (35.2 oz) (2.2 lb) quality brisket of beef or stewing beef (chuck steak is great), cut into 2cm cubes
- A few sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 440 ml (14.8 fl oz) Guinness
- 2 heaped tablespoons plain flour
- 150g (5.2 oz) Cheddar cheese, freshly grated
- 170g (6 oz) store-bought puff pastry (for pastry lid) or 500g (17.6 oz) for double-crust. Or try home-made
- 1 large free-range egg, beaten
- Pre-heat the oven to 190°C (375°F). In a large ovenproof pan, heat olive oil on a low heat. Add the onions and fry gently for about 10 minutes, trying not to colour them too much.
- Turn the heat up, add the garlic, carrots and celery and scatter in the mushrooms. Mix everything together before stirring in the beef, rosemary, a pinch of salt and a level teaspoon of pepper. Fry for 3-4 minutes, then pour in the Guinness, stir in the flour and add just enough water to cover (I found I didn't actually need extra water). Bring to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid and place in the preheated oven for about 1 ½ hours.
- Remove the pan from the oven and give a stew a stir. Put it back into the oven and continue to cook for another hour, or until the meat is very tender and the stew is rich, dark and thick. A perfect pie filling needs to be robust, so if it’s still quite liquidy, place the pan on the stove-top and reduce until the sauce thickens (you can always add a tablespoon of cornflour mixed with a little of the sauce to thicken it up if needed). Remove from the heat and stir in half the cheese, then season carefully and leave to cool.
- For pastry lid only: Dust a clean work surface with flour and roll the pastry out evenly with a floured rolling pin to about 3mm thick. Tip the stew into your dish and even it out before sprinkling over the remaining cheese. Place the rolled pastry over the top of the pie dish, crimping or folding the edge as you prefer. Criss-cross the top lightly with a sharp knife and brush over top with beaten egg.
- For double crust only: Dust a clean work surface with flour. Divide the pastry into two pieces, (two-thirds: one-third ratio) and roll both pieces out evenly with a floured rolling pin to about 3mm thick. Line the pie tin with the larger piece of pastry. Tip the stew into your dish and even it out before sprinkling over the remaining cheese. Brush beaten egg along the edges of the pastry, then place the smaller piece of pastry over the top and seal the two pastry edges together by crimping or folding as you prefer. Criss-cross the top lightly with a sharp knife and brush over top with beaten egg.
- Place the pie on a pizza stone or pre-heated oven tray and bake the pie for 45 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked, puffed and golden.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Canon 50mm 1.8 lens / Natural lighting