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.

Beef Pie.jpg

 

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 Fish and Chips Day

Today is National Donut Day and National Fish and Chip Day, a very healthy pairing and sales of cooking oil must get a massive boost. I have to make a little admission for someone with the seaside on the doorstep I don’t eat fish and chips that regularly but when you’ve had a long walk on the beach and the sun is setting a steaming hot paper parcel of fresh fish and chips doused in salt and vinegar takes some beating. Now fish and chips have become a British institution served with Tartare sauce, a slice of white bread and butter and a mug of hot tea. Fish and chips have been deconstructed, updated, made into sophisticated Michelin-starred worth dishes is a staple of pub menus up and down the land but the true home of fish and chips is the Chip Shop.

Many fish and chip shops traditionally use a simple water and flour batter, adding a little sodium bicarbonate or baking soda and a little vinegar to create lightness, as they create bubbles of carbon dioxide in the batter. Many restaurants now use a beer batter as the naturally present carbon dioxide in the beer lends a lighter texture to the batter. The sugars present in the beer also help produce a wonderful golden brown colour on frying. A simple beer batter might consist of a 2:3 ratio of flour to beer by volume. The type of beer makes the batter taste different, the alcohol itself is cooked off, so little or none remains in the finished fried fish.

Battered Cod

I cannot state how simple my recipe is just beer, flour, and seasoning. No eggs, baking powder, turmeric for colour it could not be easier or tastier. Experiment with some local ales and lagers until you find your own favourite. Lagers are fine and produce very light fine results almost like tempura. I find a nice session bitter or IPA will create a nutty, tasty batter. Your batter is always better made slightly in advance to allow the flour to absorb a little of the liquid and let the gluten relax. Do not make it to early however as the raising agents will effervesce and disappear with time leaving a flat batter mix.

My Perfect Beer Battered Fish

4 thick white fish fillets ( around 220 gr  per portion )

150 gr Self-raising Flour plus a little for dredging the fish

A large Bottle of your favourite Beer

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

for the frying

2 kg Lard or Dripping to cook

Sieve the flour into a large bowl and add a generous amount of salt and pepper. With a whisk, mixing continuously, add the beer to the flour until you have a thick, smooth batter about the consistency of thick cream. Place the batter in the fridge to rest for between 30 minutes. In a large heavy bottom pan, heat the oil to 160°C / 320 F using a thermometer to check. If you do not have a thermometer have a few cubes of stale white bread to hand. Place a bread cube in the oil if it rises to the surface and cooks to a golden brown in a couple of minutes the oil is hot enough.

Take two tablespoons of flour and place in a shallow tray, season well. Dredge each fish fillet in the seasoned flour until covered. Shake off excess flour and dip into the batter mix before carefully lowering into the hot oil. Fry the fillets for around eight minutes or until the batter is crisp and golden, turning the fillets from time to time with a large slotted spoon.

When the fish is cooked using the slotted spoon remove the fish from the hot oil, drain on kitchen paper, cover with greaseproof paper and keep hot to serve with homemade chips, a big wedge of lemon and chunky tartare sauce.

(Fish and Chips are not as unhealthy as you would first think, fish and chips have 9.42 grams of fat per 100 grams – the average pizza has 11, a Big Mac meal with medium fries has 12.1. Fish and chips have 595 calories in the average portion with an average pizza around 871. For a healthier method of frying use vegetable oil instead of the beef dripping).