One Sunday afternoon Jamie Oliver appears on the television and we settle in for the pastry specail. He makes a butter crust and divides the dough in half and makes a gingery fruit pie with one half and a savory quiche with the other. Obviously, he now has our full attention. Jamie then starts a long-cooked meat stew and puts the thick brown mixture into a puff pastry crust. While he’s making the pie I tell myself that I could put the mixture over rice or noodles and that I don’t have to go head-first into puff pastry right now. Then he pulls the golden pie out of the oven and shoves a serving spoon into the pie and the crunch of the crust makes us sit a little closer to the screen. Shards of buttery crust jump out of the pie and now I must make it as Jamie intended it.
The following Friday, Saturday and Sunday are jam-packed, leaving me without the time to prepare this pie that won’t leave our thoughts. I decide to make the long-cooked stew on Monday evening and reheat the stew and assemble the pie on Tuesday evening. With Marc’s help grating the dreamy English cheddar, we’re a machine. I set it in the oven and watch through the oven window as the crust puffs up. The finished product is glorious. I put the serving spoon into the finished pie and the same exciting crunch resounds. I take a couple of pictures with my iPhone for you and then we dig in. It is everything we hoped it would be. The stew is thick and complex, the cheddar plays an important role by adding a touch of tang and creaminess and the puff pastry takes this rustic stew to a fancy place. Meat pie=happiness.
Recipe: Steak, Stout and Cheddar Pie with Puff Pastry
Recipe slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver
2 T. olive oil
3 medium onions, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
30 g butter (about 2-3 T.)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into half coins
2 sticks of celery, trimmed and chopped (roughly the size of carrots)
2 pints of your favorite mushrooms (I used cremini and shitake)
1 kg beef stew meat (about 2 lbs.)
6-8 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
salt and freshly ground pepper
440 ml or 1 pint stout (I used Founders MI stout, but Guinness was called for)
2 heaped T. flour
200 g freshly grated white cheddar, divided (I used white seaside English cheddar in honor of Jamie)
1 package all-butter puff pastry
1 large egg
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large ovenproof pot, heat 2 T. olive oil on low heat. Add onions and sauté gently for about 10 minutes, trying not to add too much color. Turn the heat up, add the garlic, butter, carrots, celery and mushrooms. Once everything is mixed together, add in beef, thyme, a pinch of salt and 1 t. of pepper.
2. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently and then pour in the stout, add the flour and just enough water to cover the mixture. Bring to a simmer and then cover the pot with a lid and put in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven, give it a stir and return to the oven for 1 hour. Remove pot from the oven and transfer to the stove until the sauce thickens. Stir mixture and using a wooden spoon, break any large chunks of beef into smaller bite-size pieces now that it is tender. Remove from the heat and stir in half of the cheese and carefully taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper if necessary and leave to cool slightly.
3. Dust a clean work surface with flour. Unwrap the puff pastry and cut one-third off of it off the block. Roll out the larger of the pieces into the thickness of a quarter. Put the rolled out crust into a deep pie dish, leaving the edges to dangle outside the dish. Put the cooled stew into the pastry-lined pie dish and top with the remaining half of cheddar.
4. Roll out the smaller piece of the puff pastry so that it is large enough to cover the pie. Using a sharp knife, score a criss-cross pattern into the pastry making sure not to cut completely through the dough. Brush the beaten egg over the edges of the bottom part of the pie crust to act as a glue for the top half. Place the scored dough on top of the pie. Use the edges of the bottom dough and the top dough to make a simple twist around the edges. It is meant to look rustic. Brush the top with beaten egg and put in the oven to bake for 45 minutes or until the pastry is cooked. Cover top crust with foil if the top browns too quickly. Remove from the oven and make a big production out of the first crunch into the puff pastry.