British Pie Week – Braised Beef and Red Wine Pie

It is nearly the end of National Pie Week*, and some of you may already know what I think of some of these marketing inspired theme days, but in the spirit of things it is not too late for you to roll up your sleeves, don an apron and please whilst not exactly releasing your inner Sweeny Todd, get making some pies.

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Pies date back to pre-Egyptian history, early pies were flat, round crusty cakes called ‘galettes’ containing honey, evidence of which can be found on the tomb walls of the Pharaoh Ramesses I, located in the Valley of the Kings. The Roman cookbook Apicius has several recipes which involve a pie case, with a sweet filling, more like a modern-day cheesecake on a pastry base, which more often than not were used as an offering to the gods.

Medieval pies could be easily cooked over an open fire, the earliest pie-like recipes refer to coffyns ( meaning basket or box), with straight sealed sides and a top. The pastry was an effective airtight seal and used to prolong the life of expensive meat and was a handy carrying case when traveling on horseback.

Pies remained as a staple of traveling and working peoples in the colder northern European countries, with regional variations the locally available meats. The Cornish pasty is an excellent adaptation of the pie to a working man’s daily food needs.

*March 6th– March 12th

Shin is an inexpensive cut of meat, which is big on flavour, and is full of gelatinous sinew which cooks down to make the most excellent gravy. It is easy to stew, you can also cook in the oven at around 350 F / 180 C / Gas mark 4 and it really lends itself to batch cooking in the pressure cooker and freezing down until required. You can substitute the red wine for a strong tasting beer for beef and ale pie and adapt the recipe further adding chestnut mushrooms, sautéd kidneys or if you are feeling indulgent a dozen oysters just before you finish cooking.

Shin of Beef and Red Wine Pie

1.5kg Shin of Beef, bone removed, meat cut into chunks

( Ask you butcher to do this as you need a really good knife to cut shin

and ask the butcher to give you the bone )

2 large White Onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 large Carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 sticks of Celery, washed and finely chopped

1 ltr quality Beef Stock

250 ml good Red Wine

100 ml quality Olive Oil

100 gr Plain Flour or 3 tablespoons Beef Dripping

2 tablespoons Tomato Puree

Bouquet garni; Celery stick, Bay leaf, Parsley and Thyme

A generous pinch of freshly grated Nutmeg

salt & pepper to taste
Ready-made puff pastry (use an all-butter one if you can) or shortcrust
1 egg, beaten

Place the beef, flour, and seasoning into a plastic bag and shake. Meanwhile, heat the oil or dripping in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Fry the beef shin in batches until browned all over and set aside. In the same pan, adding a little more oil necessary, sauté the onions, carrots, and celery until soft for about ten minutes. Add the tomato puree and leftover flour and cook out for another minute, stirring continuously, before adding the red wine and beef stock. Add the beef shin back to the pan, stir everything together and place the marrow bones and bouquet garni, tied with string, on top.

Reduce the heat and place a tight-fitting lid on the pan. Bring to the boil and reduce the heat to achieve a gentle simmer. Allow to cook for about two hours then remove the lid and allow the sauce to reduce for another hour. When the beef is cooked, remove from the heat and thoroughly cool. When cool remove the bones and the bouquet garni.

To serve, pre-heat your oven to 350 F / 180 C / Gas mark 4 and on a floured surface, roll out the half of the pastry to fit an oven-proof pie dish.

Carefully place the pastry into the greased dish and add the beef shin filling. Brush the edges with egg wash and top with remaining rolled out pastry, crimp the edges and brush the top with the rest of the beaten egg. You can decorate with any pastry offcuts if you want. Place the pie in the oven for thirty to forty-five minutes until the pastry is golden and cooked.

Allow to stand for 5 minutes after baking and serve with horseradish mash and buttered peas.

National Yorkshire Pudding Day and My Perfect Yorkies

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Let’s call Yorkshire pudding
A fortunate blunder:
It’s a sort of popover
That turned and popped under.

Ogden Nash

The Yorkshire pudding it is said can only successfully be made by someone from that august county of England. My mum is from Yorkshire and makes wonderful Yorkshire’s and perhaps the skill is inherited because I am pretty proud of most of my attempts. A Yorkshire pudding is made from a milk, egg and flour batter which was originally poured into a tin set under the roasting joint. The pudding cooked in the hot meat fat and absorbed any juices from the roast. A large slice was served to each dinner with meat gravy before the main course. The meat and vegetables then followed usually served with a parsley or white onion sauce.

In 1747 in ‘ The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy ‘ by Hannah Glasse, one of the first English female cookery writers, there is a recipe for Yorkshire pudding. This is the first time a batter or dripping pudding is recorded with the name, although a flatter less aerated dish had been cooked for many years previously. Traditionally any leftover pudding could be eaten as a dessert with sugar and perhaps orange juice.

The Yorkshire pudding recipe popped over to America ( excuse the pun ) and the first recipe for a Popover is recorded in ‘ Practical Cooking ‘ published in 1876 by M. N. Henderson. Popovers may be served either as a sweet, topped with fruit and whipped cream for breakfast or with afternoon tea or with meats at lunch and dinner. Popovers tend to be individually baked in muffin tins and often include herbs or garlic in the recipe other popular variation replaced some of the flour with pumpkin puree. The name popover originated from the fact that the cooked batter swells or pops over the top of the baking tin.

You can fill your fancy popovers or Yorkshires with just about anything that takes your fancy, here are a few ideas from some I made in Jersey today; Chicken Liver Parfait and Red Onion Marmalade, Goats Cheese, Rocket and Balsamic, Vanilla Ice Cream, Raspberries and White Chocolate Shavings and Apple Crumble and Custard.

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In 2008 the Royal Society of Chemistry held a competition carried out to create a vouchsafe Yorkshire Pudding recipe and decided that a true Yorkshire Pudding cannot be less than four inches tall. They examined the effects of temperature, ingredients and even altitude in the search for perfection. My knowledge of chemistry is limited to an ancient ‘ O ‘ level but quite simply the heat causes the two raising agents, the egg and beaten in air, to expand the batter mix. My tips for success are simple are make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature and get the fat in your baking tray smoking hot.

Individual Yorkshire puddings can be cooked after your joint while it is resting before carving.

Perfect Yorkshire Puddings

90 gr Plain Flour

1 Fresh free-range Egg

240 – 270 ml half Milk / half Water

¼ teaspoon Salt

A good pinch of freshly ground White Pepper

1-2 tablespoons of Beef Dripping

Preheat your oven to 220C/425F/Gas mark 7. Place a damp cloth on your work surface to stop your mixing bowl slipping. Sieve the flour, pepper and salt into your bowl, make a well in the middle and add the egg. Start to beat together then gradually add the milk / water. Continue adding the milk/ water until the batter is smooth and the consistency of pouring cream. Leave the mixture to stand for ten minutes. While the mixture stands divide the beef dripping into Yorkshire Pudding tins and place the tins in the oven until the fat starts to smoke. Give the batter a final stir and pour quickly into the tins. Put them back in the oven and cook until well risen and golden brown, this will take about fifteen to twenty-five minutes depending on the size of your tin.

For the full Royal Society of Chemistry press release

http://www.rsc.org/AboutUs/News/PressReleases/2008/PerfectYorkshire.asp

Weekend Top Tip

I’m pretty sure Frankie wasn’t talking about sirloins and saddles of lamb but the important word here is RELAX. Every chef I know worth their salt* and every TV chef you watch will all tell you to let cooked meat relax. It is just not important it is imperative ! An impeccably sourced, correctly seasoned piece of meat will be dry and tough if not allowed to rest. Simply after cooking keep a steak warm and covered with foil for 5 minutes before serving. For an average chicken or joint of meat cover with a foil tent and keep in a warm oven for 20 to 25 minutes. The core temperature will actually rise and the meat will reabsorb its natural juices making it tender and tasty. From a duck breast to a glazed ham to a whole side of beef , when allowed to relax the difference is truly amazing.

 * In ancient Rome soldiers were paid part of their wages in salt – from which the term salary derives

Weekend Top Tip

Burger

As we are about to hit peak season for barbecues in the UK and everyone loves a char-grilled burger this is just a simple tip to help your delicious homemade burger keep its shape when cooking. All meat contracts slightly as it cooks and as the proteins in your burger heat up it will pull together. To keep a nice round shape simply press your thumb gently into the center of the burger as you put it on the grill leaving a slight imprint. As the meat contracts, the burger will not end up the shape of an orange but retain its perfect burger patty pattern.

 

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo literally ‘Five of May’ is a celebration commemorating the Mexican Army’s surprise victory over a French force in 1862. This was an important military encounter; Napoleon III was looking to secure a base to support the Confederates in the American Civil War. President Lincoln did not want to get involved and end up fighting the French and the Confederates at the same time. The much larger and better equipped French Army, unbeaten for almost fifty years was defeated by the outnumbered Mexicans. The French did return a year later, overran ran the country and Napoleon installed a puppet monarchy. But enough history you want some authentic Mexican cooking and I am going to give you Nachos.

Nachos is a Mexican dish of fried corn tortillas covered with cheese or cheese-based sauce and pickled Jalapeño peppers, often served as a snack. They were first made by Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, around 1943 in the city of Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. The story goes that the wives of America soldiers stationed at nearby Fort Duncan were in Piedras Negras on a shopping trip, and arrived at the restaurant after it had already closed for the day. Ignacio, the maître d’hôtel, invented a new snack for them with what little he had available in the kitchen. There always seems to be just enough available in the cupboard in these stories such as Caesar Cardini and his celebrated salad, maybe they are just more inventive than the rest of us.

 

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Nachos have since developed and many versions exist now, including large ‘loaded’ platters of Nachos ‘Grande’ or ‘Supreme’ consisting of tortilla chips smothered with layers of refried beans, Chilli con Carne, grated cheese and topped with Pico de gallo or Mexican Tomato Salsa, sour cream, Guacamole and garnished with Jalapeños, coriander (cilantro) and chopped chives or spring onions.

So we are going to need a fantastic Chilli con Carne, with lots of flavour and heat and then a pile of crisp tortilla chips, some delicious ewe’s milk Queso Manchego cheese, fresh tomato salsa and some sour cream, Guacamole and we are ready. The classic Mexican tomato salsa is called Pico de Gallo and here is my simple, authentic recipe.

 

Pico de Gallo / Mexican Tomato Salsa

6 Tomatoes, cored, de-seeded and chopped

1 small Red Onion, peeled and very finely chopped

1 tablespoon of Jalapeño Peppers from a jar, drained and finely chopped

1 clove of Garlic, peeled and crushed

1 small handful of Coriander, roughly chopped

Juice of 1 freshly squeezed Lime

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

 

Stir all the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Chill.

 

For some more detail on Chilli con Carne and a very tasty recipe please click on the link and visit Beignets and Barbecues .

 

Beef in Black Bean Sauce

So you may have guessed I love Chinese food. When I fly to the mainland it is difficult as I want to try every new restaurant but always hanker for a fantastic Chinese extravaganza, a rather greedy feast I am afraid. I recall a delicious Chinese meal in Oakham, Rutland, see I once lived and worked geographically about as far from the sea as you can get in England. In particular, one dish,  crispy, chilli beef served in a deep fried potato nest was fantastic, it was from over fifteen years ago, however, so I cannot guaranty that the restaurant even exists now, just a fabulous memory. Then moist, flavoursome steamed scallop wontons and prawn and pork dumplings from Hakkasan  in Hanway Place, London *, for which I would almost give anything to learn how to make. Finally an awesome crab with ginger and scallions ( Spring onions fellow English readers ), in East Harbor, New York, with a mind blowing Chinese and Japanese menu.  It is rather sad that I have yet had the opportunity to go to China but it is on my list to do, perhaps one day.

Chinese Meal

What I have done was an inspiring course in London with Ken Hom, equipped myself with numerous books, woks, steamers and ingredients from quaint little Asian speciality suppliers and set to work as only a chef can and chopped, pounded, crushed, fried and ate my way through the Chinese canon. Cantonese, Shandong, Hunan and spicy Szechuan cuisine with noodles, rice, black beans, bok choi and lots of seasoning; garlic, chilli, cloves and ginger, and the wonderfully pungent star anise. Am I giving my little local take away a bit of a run for his money what do you think? Enjoy.

* Here is a great little review of Hakkasan to whet your appetites if I haven’t already manage to do so from Frost Magazine.

My Top Tip Add splashes of water or vegetable stock occasionally while stir frying – this will produce steam helping to quickly cook the vegetables and prevents sticking.

Beef in Black Bean Sauce                                                                           serves 4

750 gr quality Rump Steak

2 Carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips or julienne

2 large Onions, Peeled and cut into thin slices

1 Green Pepper, cut into slices

1 Red Pepper, cut into slices

75 ml neutral Oil for stir frying

50 gr Fermented Black Beans

3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

3 cm piece of Ginger, peeled and finely grated

1 small Red Chilli, seeds removed and very finely sliced

1 tablespoon quality Toasted Sesame Oil

 For the marinade

3 tablespoons Dark Soy Sauce

3 tablespoons Rice Wine or Dry Sherry

¼ teaspoon Chinese Five Spice

1 Clove of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 teaspoons Corn Flour, mixed with a little cold water

 For the sauce

100 ml quality beef Stock

1 tablespoon Caster Sugar

1 tablespoon Corn Flour, mixed with a little cold water

2 Cloves

Place the rump steak in the freezer for thirty minutes, this firms up the beef making it easier to slice thinly. On a secure board slice the beef with a sharp kitchen knife into thin strips and place into a glass bowl. Add the marinade ingredients, mix well to combine together and fully cover the steak strips.

Cover and chill in the fridge for a minimum of two hours. Meanwhile, prepare the black beans by first rinsing thoroughly in cold water then soaking in fresh water for around half an hour, changing the water once. Drain thoroughly, chop finely and set aside.

When ready to cook, drain the meat from the marinade pouring any remaining marinade into a small, heavy-bottomed pan. Add the sauce ingredients to the marinade and heat gently to thicken, stirring occasionally to prevent lumps forming. Heat the oil in the wok until smoking and carefully add the meat. Stir fry until cooked, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on to some kitchen paper

Heat a little more oil then stir fry onion over medium heat for five minutes before adding the carrots and peppers, continue cooking for a couple more minutes until they are just starting to go soft. Add the black beans and cook for two more minutes stirring continuously, be careful not to burn, then add the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for a further two minutes. Return the beef to the wok, strain the sauce through a fine sieve and add as well. Mix in the sesame oil  and cook for one more minute stirring all the time to heat the beef through and serve immediately with egg fried rice or noodles.