Monday, 15 February 2016

Winter Beef pie - a redaction of an 18th century recipe

This weekend was Valentines weekend, and I decided to spend the weekend doing the things I really love doing - sleeping, reading and cooking ( followed shortly after by eating, of course!). I'm doing really well with my resolution to take homemade food into the office - and it's definitely paying dividends in terms of savings. It's also more filling than our office sandwich and thin soup broth options - and as a result I don't snack as much on biscuits and other junk food because I'm hungy in the middle of the afternoon. 

I decided to try an 18th century recipe from an old recipe book I own - I've collected quite a few originals and many reprints of historic recipe books over the years. In general, these give a list of ingredients, approximate proportions and general cooking guidance - but are not as detailed as modern recipes. It's been a long time since I made a pie - and I had 500gr of stewing beef in the fridge to use .

So : 

500 gr stewing beef
1 tbspn black treacle
1/3rd cup cider vinegar
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
1 onion - chopped
3 mushrooms - halved
3 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
1 bottle of dark beer
3 bay leaves
3 cloves
1 or 2 tspn cornflour
salt & pepper to taste
4 heaped teaspoons of crumbly stilton or similar blue cheese
olive oil

Pastry -
350g plain flour
112g lard
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 pint hot water

Soften the onions and garlic in the olive oil for a few minutes in a large pan. Add the beef, and the rest of the ingredients except for the cornflour and the parsnips, and simmer gently for forty minutes. Add the parsnips and simmer for a further 20 minutes.  Whilst the stew is simmering, make up the pastry. Make a well in the flour, sprinkle over the salt, and put in the egg yolk. Melt the lard in the hot water, then mix into the flour, stirring with a spoon until cool enough to handle. Put the dough on a floured surface and knead until soft & pliable. Place on a plate, cover with a bowl and leave to rest for 20 minutes in a warm place. Once rested, form the pie shape in a loose-bottomed tin which has been well greased. Heat the oven to circa 140 degrees.
Once the beef is soft and melting, strain the meat & vegetables away from the juices, and set to one side. Remove the cloves and the bay leaves if you spot them! Thicken the juices with the cornflour and boil rapidly to reduce.
Fill the pastry with the meat and vegetable mix, sprinkle over the stilton crumbles and pour over the juices. Form a lid with the remaining pastry, pierce a hole in the centre and decorate as desired. Brush with egg to develop a rich color. Put the pie in the oven and bake for approximately 30-45 minutes at 140 then turn up to 180 until the crust is golden and crispy. I think you might be able to cook at 180 throughout, for a shorter time, since the filling is completely cooked through before you start the baking process, however I haven't tested that yet - I used a raw pie approach initially. 
If you want to eat it as a pie, make sure you cool completely before slicing so that the juices set so that you can enjoy the cathedral beauty of the gems inside. Or have it straight out of the oven and soak the pastry with lots of lovely beef gravy from the inside. Either way, enjoy!

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