I like February better than I like January, probably because it’s one month closer to spring. There’s no getting around it though – February is still very much winter, and today as I write this, a constant, cold drizzle falls, veiling almost everything with the same dull gray. I do like wintery food, however. It’s usually warm, hearty, comfortable stuff that seems as if it’s calling you home.
When I visited England a couple of years ago, it was in the early spring, with all the daffodils blooming and green everywhere you looked. It was still chilly nonetheless and the little pubs we visited were serving wintery fare. We had a brilliant (how quickly I fall into English descriptives!) steak and stout pie at York’s House of Trembling Madness, a wonderfully eccentric pub with absolutely delicious food. I’ve attempted to recreate it, with pretty good success. What I’ve come up with is fairly close to what we ate on our trip and it certainly fits the bill as winter comfort food. Have yourself a cozy evening by the fire and enjoy a scrumptious steak and stout pie!
Steak & Stout Pie
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small red onions, peeled and finely sliced
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
3 bay leaves
3 heaped tablespoons flour
2 pounds beef skirt steak, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 pound Crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 tablespoons tomato purée
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
10 ounces good-quality stout or dark ale
2½ cups hot beef stock
3 ounces Dubliner Stout Cheese or good quality Cheddar, crumbled or sliced
1 large egg, beaten
1 package pie pastry (with lard as an ingredient)
Place a large casserole pan over medium heat, add olive oil and the butter, followed by the onions and fresh herbs. Cook for around 20 minutes, or until soft and turning golden, stirring occasionally.
Add flour and cook for 1 minute. Add beef to the pan along with the mushrooms, tomato purée and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in the vinegar, beer, and hot stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer for 1 hour 20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and the meat is tender. At the end, you may need to remove meat, onions and mushrooms with a slotted spoon and boil gravy, stirring often, until thickened. Return meat mixture to gravy.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Lay out one round of pastry into a large pie dish, smoothing down, turning in the edges neatly and pricking lightly all over with a fork. Brush with egg white. Bake for 20 minutes or until just starting to color.
Carefully ladle the stew into a pie dish then lay over the slices or crumbles of cheese.
Brush the outside rim with beaten egg and lay out other round of pastry on top, crimping and sealing the edges. Brush the top with a little more egg and place in the hot oven for 40 minutes, or until the pastry is beautifully golden. Serves 6 to 8