Beef, Stilton and Onion Pie
This is just one of the amazing pies in Calum Franklin's The Pie Room which will happily give you projects to work through all winter (just as well in the circumstances!). He says it's for 'wintry days when the roads are blocked and you are snowed in' but I'd be perfectly happy to have it on a grey October or November day. However one can't argue with Calum's conclusion that it's 'rich, decadent and best followed by a nap on the couch'.
Beef, Stilton and Onion Pie
300g rough puff pastry (or shop-bought puff pastry) There is obviously a recipe for rough puff pastry in the book.
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water, for brushing
For the filling
600g beef chuck steak, cut into 4cm dice
100g plain flour
40ml vegetable oil
4 Spanish onions, peeled and halved but with the roots left on
400g chestnut mushrooms, halved
1 teaspoon table salt
300ml red wine
2 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
2 litres beef stock
100g Stilton cheese, broken into 2cm nuggets
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pie dish (25cm long and 5cm deep)
Preheat the oven to 220°C fan/240°C/gas mark 9.
To prepare the filling, put the beef in a roasting tray, dust with the flour and toss the beef until all the flour has been absorbed by the meat. Add 20ml of the vegetable oil to the tray and toss well to make sure the meat is evenly coated. Put the tray in to the preheated oven and roast the beef for 20 minutes until browned and any juices released during cooking have evaporated.
While the beef is roasting, cut each onion half into six wedges through the root to leave petals. Put a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the remaining 20ml of vegetable oil and warm for 1 minute. Add the onions to the pan and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until the onions have started to brown. Add the mushrooms to the pan with half the salt and continue to cook for a further 3 minutes until the mushrooms have just softened. Next, add the red wine, bay leaves and thyme and bring to a simmer.
After 20 minutes, remove the beef from the oven and check it is nicely browned. If not, return it to the oven for a further 5 minutes. When the beef is ready, tip the onions, mushrooms, herbs and red wine into the roasting tray over the top of the meat. Put the frying pan back on the heat and pour in the beef stock – half at a time, if necessary – and bring to a simmer. Add to the tray with all the other pie filling ingredients.
At this stage, take the time to make sure the beef is not stuck to the bottom of the roasting tray: using a wooden spoon, dislodge any caramelised chunks of meat. Working carefully as the tray is hot, tightly cover the top of the tray with aluminium foil. Return the tray to the oven and continue to cook at 220°C fan/240°C/gas mark 9 for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 160°C fan/180°C/gas mark 4 and set a timer for 1¾ hours.
While the filling is braising, prepare the pastry. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a 5mm thick circle large enough to cover the pie dish. Slide the rolled-out pastry onto the lined tray and chill in the refrigerator for at least 25 minutes. Set aside any pastry trimmings for decoration.
After the beef has been braising for 1¾ hours, remove the tray from the oven and, using a dish towel to protect your hands, carefully peel back a corner of the foil. Spoon out one chunk of beef and check to make sure it is tender. It is okay if the beef has a little bite left in it, but it should not be chewy. If necessary, pop the tray back in the oven for a further 15 minutes and check again.
When the beef is ready, carefully remove all the foil from the roasting tray. Place a colander over a large bowl and tip in the filling. Let the mixture strain for a couple of minutes, then place the contents of the colander back into the tray and spread around to cool down. Transfer the strained liquid from the bowl to a large saucepan, bring to a simmer over a medium heat and cook until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season with the pepper and the remaining salt, adding a little at a time, stirring and tasting until it has the correct level of seasoning. Pour the reduced liquid over the mixture in the tray and set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally to speed up the process. Once the mixture is cool, transfer the filling to the pie dish and level the surface. Nudge the nuggets of Stilton into the filling, distributing them evenly across the surface but avoiding the sides.
Increase the oven temperature to 200°C fan/220°C/gas mark 7.
Brush the rim of the pie dish with the egg wash, brushing about 2.5cm down the sides of the dish. Lay the pastry circle centrally across the top of the dish, allowing it to rest lightly on top of the filling. (The pastry lid should not be taut as it may droop during cooking and tear.) Press firmly down on the pastry against the egg-brushed rim of the dish to seal all the way round. Lightly brush the pie lid with more egg wash and decorate however you prefer using the reserved pastry trimming and then brush that with egg wash. Return the pie to the refrigerator and chill for a further 20 minutes.
Place the dish on a rack in the centre of the preheated oven and bake the pie for 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the core temperature of the filling has reached at least 70°C on a digital probe thermometer. Alternatively, poke the tip of a knife through the pie into the middle of the filling and leave it there for a few seconds – it should be hot to the touch. Halfway through the cooking time, turn the dish around in the oven to ensure an even bake. Serve the pie simply with some boiled new potatoes and slow-roasted carrots.
What to drink: This justifies a really good red Bordeaux or other top notch cabernet sauvignon.
Extract taken from The Pie Room by Calum Franklin (Bloomsbury Absolute, £26)
Photography © John Carey (edited for the web)
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