This year, I went on vacation in England, which is actually my favorite country. Of course, I love it for the climate, the scenery, but also definitely for the food and drinks. This year, I visited the Somerset region, known for its ciders. But there are also numerous restaurants where one of the most iconic dishes is served – the English pie. And I absolutely love it. Imagine a windy, rainy day and then enjoying a pie with chips in a cozy pub. That’s what I find truly delightful.
Now, a pie is made with delicious crusty pastry, and after doing some research and asking around in England, I found out that a special ingredient is used for that – tallow, also known as beef fat. Actually, this is quite normal because back in the day (in your grandparents’ time), it was very common to use beef or pork fat. And it comes with a lot of benefits. Now, tallow and lard (pork fat) might not be available everywhere, but ask your butcher; they should have it. And if not, it’s not difficult to make. I’ll write an article about it soon.
There are various types of pies, and you can get as creative as you want. But there are certain pies that truly have a place in British culture. The Steak & Ale pie is one of them. Because no matter where you go in England, you’ll find the local version of it everywhere. During my vacation in Somerset, I was lucky enough to dine at some restaurants where award-winning versions were served. And let me tell you, they were amazing. That inspired me to give it a try myself. And while it does take some time and effort, the end result is truly incredible.
- For the filling
1000 grams of stewing beef / beef chuck
200 grams of onions, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flour
250ml of beer
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
175ml of beef broth
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (finely chopped)
1 tablespoon butter
- For the pastry
260 grams of flour
120 grams of tallow (beef fat)
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon water
- For the wash
1 egg (beaten)
1 tablespoon milk
- Step 1: the Filling
- Fire up your BBQ or preheat your oven to 160°C (320°F) for BBQ, set up for indirect heat.
- Now, slice 5 onions into coarse pieces.
- Take a Dutch oven and let it heat up on the stovetop or BBQ. Add butter to the pan and let it melt. Add the onions and let them soften. Then add the flour and stir until the flour is dissolved.
- Now, add the meat, Worcestershire sauce, broth, beer, and thyme to the pan and bring it to a boil.
- Put the lid on the pan and place it in the oven (or on the BBQ) for 2 1/2 hours.
- After this time, remove the lid and return the pan to the oven/BBQ to let the sauce thicken. Remove the pan from the heat/BBQ and set it aside.
- Step 2: the Pastry
- Increase the temperature of the oven/BBQ to 200°C (390°F).
- For the pastry, combine 250 grams of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, and the tallow in a food processor and process until well combined.
- While the food processor is running, slowly add 3 tablespoons of water until the mixture forms a cohesive dough.
- Dust the countertop with flour and knead the dough until smooth.
- Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Roll out one portion into a large sheet, about 3mm thick, and cut it into 2 halves. Line two pie forms (maximum 10cm width and 5cm height) with these halves. Be sure to grease the forms with tallow or butter before lining them.
- Fill the pie forms with the mixture from the Dutch oven. Tip: Remove the meat and onions from the sauce and place them in the pie forms before pouring some of the sauce over them (not too much, or the pie will become too watery).
- Roll out the other portion of dough into a large sheet, about 3mm thick, and cut out two round pieces that can cover the top of the pie forms. Once you’ve covered both pies, use a fork to prick the edges for a nice finish.
- Brush the top with beaten egg for a beautiful shine on the pastry. Place the pies in the oven for at least 30 minutes. If the pie looks good after 30 minutes, it’s ready. If not, leave it in the oven for a few more minutes.