Perfect pastry – Beef and ale raised pies

There is just one crucial rule when making pies. If you are inviting people round to help you with a tasting session, don’t start up with the line ‘so, I hear you like eating pies.’ There a very few ways to come back from what sounds like a couched terrace chant. Thankfully, these pies were certainly good enough to salvage a friendship – if only because they kept me and my big mouth shut for a while.

Given that I don’t really like beef, I definitely don’t like ale, and I can take it or leave it when it comes to pies, I wasn’t going to taste these. Rather, this was to be a selfless experiment in making other people happy, people who know that they enjoy beef, ale and pies. Such charitable baking, and indeed dislike of certain foodstuffs lasted until the next day, when the prospect of leftover pies as a hearty Sunday lunch simply was too tempting to pass up. And, of course, after a single bite I was a convert.

The mottled golden pastry shell is itself a thing of beauty, and the misshaped imperfections and folds make you proud for handcrafting such a crust. The pastry does not disappoint – buttery and rich, with a perfectly crisp bite. Cracking the pie open, the rich, meaty gravy spills out, and you cannot resist mopping up every last drop – especially with homemade chips. The mustard and Worcestershire sauce liven up the filling (I also added a touch of garam masala), ensuring a hearty, flavour-full meal. Serve with homemade chips and peas – mushy or otherwise. They are also excellent cold with a splodge of tomato ketchup.

Even if I hadn’t enjoyed eating these pies, I would probably still make them again in an instant for anyone who asked. I’m pretty new to pastry making, but the hot water crust pastry was undemanding and yielded results that I hadn’t thought within my reach. The downside to this recipe is that it does take ages to make –  around 3-4 hours – although most of this is hanging around waiting for the filling to simmer and then to cool. Still, if you’re after some impressive gastro-pub style grub in your own home, this is the pie for you.

Beef and ale rasied pies

The recipe is from delicious magazine.


For the filling

2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing

2 onions, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

800g stewing/braising steak

2 tbsp flour, seasoned with salt and pepper

3 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 fresh bay leaf

350ml dark ale

250ml beef stock

2 tsp English mustard

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

For the pastry

150ml water

80g butter, cut into small pieces

80g lard, cut into small pieces

450g plain flour

1 tsp salt

2 large free-range eggs, beaten, plus 1 for glazing


1) Place butter, lard and water in a pan, and after ensuring that the butter and lard have melted evenly, bring mixture to the boil. Meanwhile, sift flour and salt into a bowl, making a well in the centre for the 2 beaten eggs. Put the eggs in the well and sprinkle over some of the flour to cover them. As soon as the butter-lard-water mix is boiled, pour it into the bowl around the edges of the flour. Using a wooden spoon, bring the mixture together quickly to form a smooth dough. Knead briefly and wrap in cling film. Let cool for a few minutes before placing in the fridge to chill.

2) Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pan and cook the onion and garlic for 10 minutes until soft. Remove and set aside. Toss chunks of the steak in flour and then add to the pan, with extra oil if necessary. Brown the meat all over, then return the onion and garlic to the pan. Add the thyme and bay leaf, pour in ale and beef stock and stir in mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil, pop a lid on the pan and then reduce the heat and leave to simmer for about 1 hour 45 minutes. The meat should be tender and the smell delicious.

3) Remove from the pan to a large bowl or container to cool. Remove the thyme and bay leaf. Let cool completely.

4) Preheat oven to 200oC/fan 180oC/gas 6.

5) Remove pastry from fridge. Divide into thirds, reserving one third for the lids – wrap it back up in clingfilm and pop it back in the fridge. Divide the other two balls into thirds again – you want six balls of dough. Roll into circles – around 17cms. Lightly grease metal pudding basins with oil. Line each one with a pastry circle. This is a somewhat infuriating process, trying to get the whole thing even and then having to press the extra folds of pastry back into some semblance of shape. Work the pastry into the moulds, ensuring that it comes up just over the edge for easy attachment of the lids. Chill uncovered in the fridge for 40 minutes – this helps to harden the pastry.

6) Divide the cooled filling among the pastry cases. Take out the reserved pastry, roll out and cut out lids – I used a spare pudding mould as a guide and cut round with a sharp knife. Make a hole in the middle with a knife – this lets the steam escape, making sure your pie doesn’t explode. Dampen the edges of the pies/lids with water and attach. Crimp round the edges with your fingers and brush the tops with beaten egg.

7) Bake for 40 minutes. If the pastry is cooking too quickly and you are worried about burning it, cover it with tin foil. It should be beautifully golden when it is ready – and the pie filling should be burningly hot. Let them cool for 5 minutes before removing them from their tins and serving.


4 comments on “Perfect pastry – Beef and ale raised pies

  1. Yum! Glad to be object of charitable baking at anytime even at sacrifice of figure.

  2. Oh Wordy, these look tasty, I’d like to try these sometime!

  3. Oh, my, word.

    YES PLZ.

  4. They look great, I’ve made a few raised pork pies before where the filling went in raw and the pie was cooked for several hours. Do you think that would work with Beef? I might give it a go next week.

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