Sunday, 8 February 2009

Jamie's Hearty Beef Stew, All Wrapped Up!

This is comfort food, pub fare, and a great big hug, all wrapped in one dish. Believe me, it tastes far better than it looks in the picture.

We have just begun a series of thaws here, wet feet and wet basements abound. It will be a long time before the 5 foot snowbanks melt away, and of course there will be more snow before the winter is over, but it is nice to see the sidewalk beneath one's feet, and, around the edges of the lawn, a few sprigs of soggy grass.
If it means that I have to carry my short-legged companions over the massive puddles, I am ok with that. (Me being the lady that sleeps with a dish of water by the bed in case a pup wakes up with a dry mouth..) One must sacrifice for the care and comfort of one's family.
Fortunately, one does not need to sacrifice big flavour for said comfort - and Jamie Oliver understands that. This beef stew pie, baked up for Souper Sundays, is just the thing to give you and your loved ones strength to soldier on. Hubby particularly loved this one - maybe it's the beer?

Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie with a puff pastry lid - Jamie Oliver, Jamie at Home
Olive oil
3 medium red onions, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tbsps butter, plus more for greasing
2 carrots - peeled and chopped
2 sticks celery - trimmed and chopped
4 field mushrooms (portabella) sliced
2.2 lbs. beef brisket or stewing beef, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1-pint can Guinness - not lager
2 heaping tbsps flour
7 oz of shredded cheddar cheese
1 lb. store bought puff pastry
1 egg, beaten with a fork

Preheat the oven to 375f. In a large ovenproof pan, heat a glug of olive oil on low heat. Add the onions and fry gently for about 10 minutes - try not to colour them too much. Turn the heat up, add the garlic, butter, carrots and celery and scatter in the mushrooms. Mix everything together before stirring in the beef, rosemary, a pinch of salt and a level teaspoon of pepper.
Fry fast for 3 or 4 minutes, then pour in the Guinness, stir in the flour and add just enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid and place in the preheated oven for about 1 1/2 hour. Remove the pan from the oven and give the stew a stir. Put it back into the oven and continue to cook it for another hour, or until the meat is very tender and the stew is rich, dark and thick. A perfect pie filling needs to be robust, so if it's still quite liquidy, place the pan on the burner and reduce until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in half the cheese, then season carefully and leave to cool slightly.
Cut about a third of the pastry off the block. Dust a clean work surface with flour and roll both pieces of pastry out evenly with a floured rolling pin to the thickness of a silver dollar. Butter an appropriately sized pie dish, then line with the larger sheet, leaving the edges dangling over the side. Tip the stew into your lined dish and even it out before sprinkling over the remaining cheese. Brush the edges of the pastry with a little beaten egg. (I sprinkled S&P on the crust)
Cut the other rolled sheet of pastry to fit the top of the pie dish and crisscross it lightly with a sharp knife. Place it over the top of the pie and fold the overhanging pastry onto the pastry lid to make it look nice and rustic. Brush the top with beaten egg, then bake the pie directly on the bottom of the oven for 45 minutes, until the pastry is cooked, puffed and golden.

Do give this one a try - play around with the veggies if you like, but make sure you use a dark stout for the liquid. Regular lager will not do the job here. I tend to use the lighter stuff for drinking and always keep Guinness on hand just for cooking - it makes for an outstanding onion ring batter as well!