Last weekend – the macaroon-making one – I was down home cooking dinner for my mother’s birthday. As we farm beef cattle, roasts are a regular part of life at home so, as the kitchen was in my hands on Saturday, I decided that it was a good opportunity to make something completely different. On Friday night I dug out the cookbooks that haven’t yet made it to Dublin – they’re the ones that got co-opted by the Little Sister – and started leafing through them, looking for inspiration. One of the Avoca books had an interesting-sounding Beef and Guinness Stew so I bookmarked the recipe for consultation the following day.
I only glanced at the recipe before I went into the local town of Charleville but I did remember to get a kilo of stewing steak, half a dozen muddy carrots, a few heads of broccoli and some puff pastry, as the Boyfriend had suggested turning what was supposed to be a simple casserole into a slightly more elaborate pie. I figured that we would have Guinness somewhere in the house after Christmas so I didn’t worry about getting that only to discover, when I started searching at home, that I had used all the Guinness when cooking the Spiced Beef on Christmas Eve.
Never being one to let the absence of a major ingredient stop me from trying out a recipe, I decided to substitute a bottle of red wine for the missing Guinness and ended up with a Beef and Red Wine Pie. I used a whole bottle of wine to ensure that there was plenty of rich gravy. Deeply succulent and cold-weather friendly, this was a good sturdy dinner for a grey, raw January Saturday and went down well with the entire family – apart from my teenaged Little Sister who mostly doesn’t eat the kind of “horrible food” that I cook. As there were both broccoli and carrots in the pie, we just served it with boiled potatoes to soak up all the lovely juices although some crusty French bread wouldn’t go amiss either.
Of course, you don’t need to bother turning this into a pie as it makes an exceptionally good casserole by itself. On the other hand, if you want to cook the meat in advance – always something which improves the flavour – remove the casserole from the fridge and let it come to room temperature before you add the pastry topping and pop it in the oven. Although, I must admit, that I ran out of time (not the first time this has happened) so the pastry got landed on the hot filling and put in the oven straight away. Not strictly orthodox but it works if you’re stuck or disorganised like me!
Beef and Red Wine Pie
Stewing steak – 1 kilo
Olive oil – 2 tablespoons
Onions – 2
Garlic – 2 cloves
Flour – 2 tablespoons
Red wine – 1 bottle
Carrots – 6
Thyme – 2 sprigs of fresh or 1 teaspoon of dried
Bay leaves – 2
Broccoli – 2 heads
Salt and pepper to taste
Puff pastry – 500g pack
Egg – 1, beaten
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Peel and roughly chop the onions and garlic. Peel the carrots and cut into 2cm chunks. Divide the broccoli into small florets.
In an ovenproof casserole heat the oil and brown the meat in batches, transferring it to a plate as it is done. Add the onions and garlic to the casserole and sauté for ten minutes over a medium heat. Return the meat to the casserole and add the flour. Cook, stirring for two minutes, then add the red wine together with the carrots, thyme and bay leaf.
Season well with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cover the casserole and transfer to the preheated oven. Cook for 1½ – 2 hours until the meat is very tender, adding the broccoli to the dish for the last five minutes.
Decant the casserole into two ovenproof serving dishes – I used square lasagne dishes – and let cool to room temperature.
When you’re ready to cook the pies, preheat the oven to 220°C. Divide the pastry in half and roll it out to fit the dishes. Place on top of the pie and glaze with beaten egg. Cut three slits in the pastry to leave out the steam and place in the oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown and you can hear the filling simmering underneath.
Serve with boiled potatoes or some crusty French bread.
Makes 2 pies and serves 6.