Sumptuous pepper steak pie

Many a steak pie has turned out to be a disappointment – gristly meat, too much gravy, even no meat! The only way to guarantee quality is to make it yourself, and this recipe is no chore. Even top chefs use frozen puff pastry, and it certainly has its place in the pie arena, but you should use the pastry you are most at home with and a good shortcrust is unbeatable. The choice of pastry is therefore yours, and I am merely giving guidelines according to my preference in pies. (At the end of this recipe, you will find my recommendation for turning a pie into a cobbler – an old favourite for a cold winter’s night.)

Ingredients:

  • 2cm thick rump steak trimmed of all fat and sinewy bits – trimmed weight about 1kg
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large sliced onion
  • 1 or 2 cloves chopped garlic (optional)
  • 2 or 3 Tablespoons oil for frying
  • 4 Tablespoons brandy (a glug)
  • 340ml bottle beer (lager)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 teaspoons beef stock powder
  • 3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (more if you like it really peppery)
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons dried thyme

The steak takes very little time to cook, being a best cut, and the size of the blocks will depend on how you like the texture of your pie – chunky or easy-to-eat individual pies. I find a 1cm square to be perfect. Toss cubed meat in flour seasoned with salt. Heat oil and cook onion for a few minutes then add garlic and meat, shaking and turning quickly until browned. Remove from pan and glug in the brandy to deglaze. Return the meat and onion mix to the pan, add the beer, water, stock powder, black pepper and thyme and simmer for about 15 minutes to allow the flavour to develop. Thicken the gravy with a little cornflour mixed in cold water to the consistency of a pie. Set aside to cool while you prepare the pastry.

For puff pastry or shortcrust, I prefer to semi-bake the bottom for a while to ensure it doesn’t become soggy. A nice combo is shortcrust baked as a base and topped with puff for the final bake. Oven temperature around 200deg C (ten minutes for base, then add filling) and bake about 25 to 30 mins until golden.

When filling your pie, don’t put too much gravy in. Save the gravy to pour over the chips!

TURN IT INTO A COBBLER:

Beat together: one extra large egg, 125ml milk, 125ml oil. Fold in 120g flour, 10ml baking powder, 3ml mustard powder, salt. Mix well, pat out onto floured surface and cut into scone shapes. Place on top of filling and bake at 200deg C for 15 – 20 mins until golden. Can be used with any meat pie and is my personal favourite.

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