Summer seems to have come to a chilly, wet and blustery end and it is time for an overhaul of the summer salads and barbecues and start to cook some of my favourite foods, warming soups, hearty stews and casseroles, and traditional pies and puddings. As we shift into Autumn if you are a bit of a foodie you will know it is also time to celebrate National Cask Ale Week* and to promote British Food Fortnight, and if you follow this blog you will also know how I feel about some of the more obscure food promotions but as my day job is working for a brewery pub chain this is an ideal opportunity for me to promote two great passions, classic British pub food accompanied with a pint or two and what can be more suitable than a traditional Beef and Ale pie, a real pub favourite.
Pies date back to pre-Egyptian history, early pies were flat, round crusty cakes called ‘galettes’ containing honey, evidence of which can be found on the tomb walls of the Pharaoh Ramesses I, located in the Valley of the Kings. The Roman cookbook Apicius has several recipes which involve a pie case, with a sweet filling, more like a modern-day cheesecake on a pastry base, which more often than not were used as an offering to the gods.
Medieval pies could be easily cooked over an open fire, the earliest pie-like recipes refer to coffyns ( meaning basket or box), with straight sealed sides and a top. The pastry was an effective airtight seal and used to prolong the life of expensive meat and was a handy carrying case when traveling on horseback.
Pies remained as a staple of traveling and working peoples in the colder northern European countries, with regional variations the locally available meats. The Cornish pasty is an excellent adaptation of the pie to a working man’s daily food needs.
*Most of my recipes now include a beer and a wine choice to match the dish.
More Great British Recipes Classic Beer Battered Fish and Chips The Best Ever Bramley Apple Crumble Perfect Yorkshire Puddings Shepherd’s Pie
Braised Beef and Ale Pie
Shin is an inexpensive cut of meat, which is big on flavour, and is full of gelatinous sinew which cooks down to make the most excellent gravy. It is easy to stew, you can also cook in the oven at around 350 F / 180 C / Gas mark 4 and it really lends itself to batch cooking in the pressure cooker and freezing down until required. You can adapt the recipe further sautéd kidneys or if you are feeling indulgent a dozen oysters just before you finish cooking. I am using Liberation Ale ( obviously ) but you can substitute any good flavoursome beer of your choice Adnams Broadside and Fullers ESB are other personal favourites.
1.5kg Shin of Beef, bone removed, meat cut into chunks
( Ask you butcher to do this as you need a really good knife to cut shin
and ask the butcher to give you the bone )
500 gr Chestnut Mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
2 large White Onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 large Carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks of Celery, washed and finely chopped
750 ml quality Beef Stock
500 ml Liberation Ale or a good Ale of your choice
100 ml quality Olive Oil or 3 tablespoons Beef Dripping
100 gr Plain Flour
2 tablespoons Tomato Puree
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
Bouquet garni; Celery stick, Bay leaf, Parsley and Thyme
A generous pinch of freshly grated Nutmeg
Fine Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper to taste
Ready-made puff pastry
(use an all-butter one if you can) or Shortcrust
1 free-range Egg, beaten
Place the beef, flour, and seasoning into a plastic bag and shake. Meanwhile, heat the oil or dripping in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Fry the beef shin in batches until browned all over and set aside. In the same pan, adding a little more oil necessary, sauté the onions, carrots, and celery until soft for about ten minutes. Add the tomato puree and leftover flour and cook out for another minute, stirring continuously, before adding the beer and beef stock. Add the beef shin back to the pan, stir everything together and place the marrow bones and bouquet garni, tied with string, on top.
Reduce the heat and place a tight-fitting lid on the pan. Bring to the boil and reduce the heat to achieve a gentle simmer. Allow to cook for about two hours then remove the lid and allow the sauce to reduce for another hour. When the beef is cooked, remove from the heat and thoroughly cool. When cool remove the bones and the bouquet garni.
To serve, preheat your oven to 350 F / 180 C / Gas mark 4 and on a floured surface, roll out the half of the pastry to fit an oven-proof pie dish. Carefully place the pastry into the greased dish and add the beef shin filling. Brush the edges with egg wash and top with remaining rolled out pastry, crimp the edges and brush the top with the rest of the beaten egg. You can decorate with any pastry offcuts if you want. Place the pie in the oven for thirty to forty-five minutes until the pastry is golden and cooked. Allow to stand for 5 minutes after baking and serve with horseradish mash and buttered peas or seasonal greens.
What to Drink? A fruity, smooth spicy new world Merlot is a perfect match with the rich, full flavours of the slow-cooked gravy or have a pint of the ale that you cooked with.
Allergens in this recipe are;
In the Worcestershire sauce