Friday, October 8, 2010

Fabulous Friday Food - Steak and Ale Pie

We were starving. And wandering. And tired. And looking for a restaurant.

Just a terrible combination when you're in a foreign country.

Did I mention we were starving?

Finally, after getting really frustrated and desperate, Abby spotted a tiny little pie shop tucked underneath a staircase in Covent Garden. In England, pie doesn't necessarily refer to the lattice-topped, fruit-filled, ooey-gooey goodness that we enjoy here in the States.

Pies in England are often filled with meat.

I know. Gross, right?


Meat pies are yummy. Really, really yummy.

It may have been that Abby and I were just so hungry that night that anything would have tasted delicious, but truly, the steak and ale pie I had that night in Covent Garden was just about the best thing I had EVER tasted. Seriously. The meat was so tender; the crust was so flaky; the gravy was just so gravy-y. I was in meat-and-gravy heaven.

I wanted to go back the next night, and I wanted to go back this summer when B and I were in the UK, but it just didn't work out.

We had to eat fancy food this summer.

Battersea Pie Shoppe certainly did not qualify as fancy food. But I'm not that fancy myself, because I've been dreaming about that pie ever since April. Battersea Pie Shoppe, you have a piece of my heart.

Ever since we got home last spring I have been dying to make steak and ale pie. Dying, I tell you.

Well, last night I finally had a chance to make the English delicacy (is that an oxymoron?). I had the ingredients and looked up about 10 different recipes online--you should have seen the open windows on my computer! But I did what I usually do--I read the recipes and decided for myself how to make my very own variety of steak and ale pie. I'm picky that way. And then I laid hands on my cooktop and prayed that it would all work out.

I needed to be transported to Covent Garden.

So here goes. My first attempt at steak and ale pie. And I gotta say, it won't be my last. Since I don't have the gift of teleportation, I have a feeling I'll be making this one again and again whenever I miss my favorite place on earth. Which is pretty often.

First things first: assemble your ingredients. For this one you'll need stew meat, flour, salt and pepper, butter, onions, garlic, mushrooms, ale (of course!), beef broth, and puff pastry. Couldn't be more basic.

Cut the stew meat into bite size pieces and toss them with a couple tablespoons of flour.

Place the meat in a hot pan and about three tablespoons of olive oil. Brown the meat really well, and be sure not to crowd the pan. In fact, you might want to brown the meat in two batches just so you don't run into this problem.

Once the meat is browned, set it aside. Melt some butter in the same pan. This is so important because you do NOT want to lose the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Your flavor is in there!

Throw in a chopped onion and a little bit of minced garlic, letting the onions get soft and browned.

Once that's done, throw in some mushrooms. I used baby bellas, but you can use whatever you want.

Let those babys brown for a little bit, then throw in some ale (we just call it beer around here--we're not that fancy).

Let the ale get all bubbly while you scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. In fact, it needs to cook down just a bit, so let it simmer for a few minutes. You're combining flavors here and flavors cannot be rushed.

Finally, add 2 or 3 cups of beef broth and a sprig of fresh herbs (I used thyme, but rosemary would also be good). Return the beef to the pan, and put a lid on the whole thing. Let it simmer for an hour to an hour and a half.

As the beef simmers, the broth will thicken and turn much darker. Like this, see?

Place it in a baking dish and cover the whole thing with some puff pastry that you have thawed in your fridge for a few hours. (Make sure you use plenty of flour on your surface when you roll out the pastry. Just trust me on this one.)

Use an egg wash to create a seal between the pastry and the dish. Then brush the top of the pastry with egg wash.

Bake your pie in a 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

And serve this dish with mashed potatoes. Promise me you'll serve mashed potatoes. You NEED mashed potatoes with this one.

Steak and Ale Pie

1 ½ pounds beef stew meat
3 T. oil
salt and pepper
3 T. flour
½ stick butter
1 onion
1 clove garlic
About 1 1/2 Cups sliced mushrooms
1 bottle (12 oz) dark ale
3 C. beef broth
Thyme (or other fresh herb)
Puff Pastry

1. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Toss in flour.

2. Heat a dutch oven or large pan until the pan is nice and hot. Add oil. Add meat to hot oil in pan and brown well on all sides. Salt and pepper to taste. You may have to do this in two batches so you don’t crowd the pan. Remove meat from pan and set aside.

3. Melt butter in bottom of pan and add onions and garlic. Cook for several minutes until onions are soft and carmelized. Add mushrooms; cook for 2 more minutes until the edges of the mushrooms just start to brown.

4. Add beer to onions and mushrooms and cook down for a few minutes. Add beef broth and bring to a boil. Add back the meat to the pot and add a sprig of thyme. Reduce heat and simmer for about an hour to an hour and a half on top of the stove until thickened and meat is tender.

5. Place mixture in a baking dish, and top with thawed puff pastry. Use an egg wash along the rim of the baking dish in order to help the puff pastry to stick. Brush egg wash over the top of the puff pastry. Poke top of pastry with a knife in order to let steam out of the pie.

6. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes until pastry is browned and flaky.


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  1. The pie looks amazing and I LOVE Covent Gardens.


  2. I'm sold out on Sara's Beef & Cheddar Pie. No gravy but Oh my, it's delicious. I want to go with you to England to taste their non-fancy food. How about in Novemeber? LOL. One day we'll do a trip!