Spring was in the air, the Daffoldils were with us and the clocks had just gone back, announcing daylight saving hours. But oh no, we spoke too soon. How surprised was I to look out the window yesterday morning and see snow on my car!! Snow & daffodils? What a soggy (the snow didn't even stick!), dark and depressing day. Nothing for it but to comfort eat I say! That means pie...
STEAK & KIDNEY PIE
Kidneys are like marmite. You either love them or hate them. I love their amazingly strong flavour and usually hanker after any offal when in need of an iron boost. Without potentially freaking you out altogether, try adding 2-3 anchovies to the filling (when adding the stock) for an even richer flavour. Yes, this recipe takes a little bit of time to prepare, but the filling can easily be made in advance and refrigerated overnight or even frozen. The pastry is quick to make but again can be made beforehand too, turning this into an actually quite quick dinner!
4 tbsp olive oil
900g beef stewing steak pieces
300g lambs kidneys
250g baby button mushrooms, wiped clean
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped thyme leaves
7 bay leaves
200ml red wine
600ml beef stock
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 quantity of hot water crust pastry (see recipe below)
a little flour for dusting
1 egg, beaten
your favourite greens to serve (e.g. peas, beans, broccoli, cabbage)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
You will need: 6 x 350ml ramekins
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over a high heat. Working in batches, sear the beef and kidneys all over until well browned. Remove with a slotted spoon between batches, leaving any oil behind.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, reduce the heat a little and sauté the mushrooms for 4-5 minutes until golden. Remove from the pan, adding to the meat.
Finally, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the pan and sauté the onion, carrots, garlic, thyme and 1 bay leaf for 4-5 minutes until softened and just catching colour.
Return the meat and mushrooms to the pan and increase the heat to high. Add the wine and allow to bubble down for a minute or two before adding the stock, Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree and salt and pepper. Bring slowly to the boil, pop the lid on and reduce to simmer gently for 1 ½ hours, removing the lid after an hour. The beef should be tender and falling apart and the sauce reduced and thickened. Check seasoning, adjusting if necessary.
When ready to assemble and cook, preheat the oven to 200C (400F / Gas Mark 6). Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to a few millimetres in thickness. Use the top of a ramekin as a template to cut out 6 discs. Use the remaining pastry to make 6 strips (about 1-2 cm wide) to go around the edge of the dishes. I used the remaining pastry to cut out the word ‘pie’ with letter cutters, but you can make any shapes you like for decoration (or not!).
Arrange the ramekins on a large baking tray and divide the steak and kidney mixture evenly between them (discarding the bay leaf as you go). Arrange the strips of pastry around each edge, pressing down a little before brushing a little beaten egg over. Place a disc of pastry on top, make a hole in the centre with the tip of a knife (to let the steam out) and use the back of the knife to feather all around the edges. Brush all over with egg and then arrange the pastry letters or other decoration on top, brushing them with egg also.
Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and evenly golden. Place a steak and kidney pie on a base plate and decorate each one by sticking a bay leaf out of the hole in the top. Serve piping hot with your favourite greens.
HOT WATER CRUST PASTRY
I remember making hot water crust pastry in finishing school for young ladies (aka my Home Economics degree) and thinking it to be kind of stodgy and old fashioned (like most things on the course). However, now that retro food is just so uber cool, I’m declaring hot water crust pastry to be back in vogue. I’m thinking nibbling on Cornish pasties on romantic picnics or making hearty meat pies while humming to Ella Fitzgerald on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
100ml whole milk
100g unsalted butter, diced
225g plain flour
½ tsp salt
Place the milk in a small saucepan with the butter and 100ml of water. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally and then remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, sift the flour and salt into a large warm bowl (I pop mine in the microwave for about a minute). Make a well in the centre and pour the milk mixture in. Immediately start working the flour in from the sides with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough ball is formed.
Spread the dough out onto a tray to allow it to cool quickly. Once cool, knead it back into a ball, cover with cling film and refrigerate until needed.