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Beef and mushroom pie

6 February 2005

To my Chinese friends, this year upcoming may be the Year of the Rooster; to me, it is the Year of Baking. Cakes and pastries: I shall crack them all. Or give up halfway through. But well begun is half done, and last week’s cakes were scrummy, and today I have baked a pie. Myself, I suspect the pastry only works because I do it in a food processor rather than in my fingers, but at least it does work. Pausing only to point out that my abominable mother (who hates cooking, and really couldn’t care less) can throw a wonderful pastry together in moments and has never thought about using a machine, here is my practical beef-and-mushroom pie:

Cut 500g of beef shin into chunks, and toss in well-seasoned flour. Slice a couple of onions, and fry in olive oil for a few minutes. Then add the beef, and any residue of flour. Stir and fry for five minutes, then add 500g of mushrooms, either whole or broken into large chunks to match the beef. After a few minutes more, add a couple of glugs of red wine, and a pint of good beef stock. As it comes to the boil, add some sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf, and a shot-glass of Worcestershire sauce. Cover and simmer for an hour, then uncover and simmer for another. Finally add a couple of potatoes cut into similar chunks again, cover and simmer for one hour more (nb, this is how I do it; all the covering and uncovering is about getting the right amount of gravy, neither too much or too little. You may want to adjust).

To make the pastry, whizz 100g of lard (cubed, straight from the fridge) with 200g of self-raising flour and a little salt. Or if you’re confident, rub the fat into the flour with your fingers; just don’t do it anywhere I can see you, show-off. Mix in a little chilled water, till it forms a dough; then cover and put it in the fridge till wanted.

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5 (or meantime crush-roast some potatoes: boil new potatoes in their skins for ten minutes, blat them with a spatula till they crush a little, slip a sprig of thyme into each then pour some olive oil over and roast at gas 6 for twenty minutes, then knock it back to 5 before you put the pie in). Put the beefy loveliness into a pie-dish and butter the rim; roll out the pastry and cover it over; slit the top for the steam to get away, egg-glaze or milk-glaze if you want to (me, I don’t bother) and bake for 40 minutes or thereabouts. Hurrah, a pastry-pie that works...

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© Chaz Brenchley 2005
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.