We all have those menu stoppers – you know, the old favourite dishes that you simply cannot resist when you see them on offer.
For me, it’s a robust Steak & Ale pie. However tempting the rest of the menu choices may look, my eyes and appetite can never get further down the list once I see it as an option.
Steak is a classic menu stopper, no surprises there. However you like it served, it’s a cut of meat that is nothing short of sensational when prepared and cooked to your own taste.
A perfect Steak & Ale pie can be tricky to pull off. But when done well, there is simply nothing that compares to plunging your fork through the crisp, puffy crust to discover the hearty, meaty gloriousness beneath.
Served with lashings of buttery mash and seasonal vegetables, the Steak & Ale pie should be the crowning glory of a good pub menu. Preferably served following a bracing walk in the British countryside, with supplementary ale (pint of), beside a roaring log fire. Heaven.
Try this recipe to recreate the experience at home:
Steak & Ale Pie
|vegetable oil||2 tbsp|
|large onion, chopped||2|
|large carrots, chopped into large chunks||4|
|golden caster sugar||2 tsp|
|plain flour||4 tbsp|
|thyme, bay leaf and parsley, tied together||Small bunch|
|smoked bacon lardons, or chopped rashers||200g|
|plain flour, plus extra for dusting||650g|
|lard or cold butter (or half of each), diced, plus extra for greasing||250g|
|egg yolk, beaten, to glaze||1|
- Preheat the oven to gas mark 3. Heat half the oil in a large casserole dish, brown the meat well in batches, then set aside. Add the onions and carrots to the pan, adding a drizzle more oil, then cook on a low heat for 5 mins until coloured. Scatter over the sugar and flour, stirring until the flour turns brown.
- Tip the meat and any juices back into the pan and give it all a good stir. Pour over the ale and stock. Season, tuck in the herbs and bring everything to a simmer. Cover with a lid and place in the oven for about two hours, until the meat is really tender.
- While the stew is cooking, heat a drop more oil in a frying pan and sizzle the bacon for 3 mins until crisp. Remove from the heat and, when the stew is cooked, stir them through. Leave everything to cool.
- Crumble the flour and lard, or butter, together with a generous pinch of sea salt until completely combined, then add up to 200ml ice-cold water to make a soft dough. Knead the pastry, then wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least one hour.
- Heat oven to gas mark 7 and place a flat baking tray in the oven. Heavily grease a 24-28cm pie dish and dust well with flour. Cut a third off the pastry and set aside. Roll out the pastry to round that will easily line the pie dish with an overhang, then line the tin. Add the beef to the dish using a slotted spoon so the sauce is not too runny.
- Roll out the remaining pastry to a thick round big enough to cover the dish. Brush the edges of the pastry in the dish with egg yolk, then cover with the pastry lid. Trim the edges, crimp the pastry, then re-roll your trimmings to make a decoration, if you like. Brush the top generously with egg. Make a few little slits in the centre of the pie, place on the hot baking tray, then bake for 40 mins until golden.