It’s not exactly freezing but it the time of year when I start thinking about meals that, for lack of a better word are ‘manly’. I would happily make this recipe a Steak and Kidney Pie although that would quickly mean that most of it ended up un-eaten. But this wonderfully robust pie is something I wrote about in a very early entry on this blog. Well over 3500 people have visited this recipe. The very lucky few have tasted this savory pie, a rich melange of meat and mushrooms and cheese left to be uncovered when the puff pastry topping is lifted. And it’s from a Chef I admire as much for his caring as I do for his cooking.
Jamie Oliver is someone I truly admire. As I’ve followed his career, I couldn’t help but be impressed with all that he has taken on. Started cooking at his father’s pub at 8. Culinary School at 16. Enormously successful TV personality, “The Naked Chef”, in his 20s and now, at the ripe old age of 37, he’s not only working with young unemployeds at his not-for-profit restaurant / cooking school “Fifteen”, he is also determined to get junk food out of British school lunchrooms.
No wonder he was on the Queen’s Honors List in 2003 when he received his M.B.E (Master of the Order of the British Empire). On top of all this, he comes across as so genuine and unaffected, I’d love to sit down and trade a few laughs.
As much as I love to read Nigella Lawson, who is a wonderful writer and whose “How to be a Domestic Goddess” (Hyperion 2001) launched her into the stratosphere, I am with Julia Child: “A cookbook is only as good as its worst recipe”.
Sadly, in Ms. Lawson’s case, I have, at several moments, wanted to hit its author over the head with her cookbook. The results of following her recipes to a T led to so abysmal results. I won’t go into the gory details but on several occasions, I had to wonder if anyone had bothered to test the Americanized version of, for example, her “Curry in a Hurry”. It floats in the most amazing amount of liquid. It was particularly disheartening because the consistency was perfectly fine until, for whatever reason, you’re loading in some Chicken stock made from a bouillon cube and quite revolting in and of itself.
So I approached Jamie Oliver’s recipes with some trepidation. I was drawn to his “Steak, Guinness and cheese pie with a puff pastry lid”.
It seemed to perfect dinner for the first cold night of fall. I love a good braise. I loved the idea that once you’ve prepared the pie, you’re advised to serve it with some simple, buttered peas.
So I put aside my Lawson-inflected fears and set out to make it. There’s a lesson here, of course. You don’t blindly carry on when something like the Bouillon water is thrust at you. I could have saved my “Curry in a Hurry”, if I’d used my head instead of her recipe.
This I determined to do with Jamie. And so here it is, with some judicious changes from what appeared in “Jamie at Home”. What changes, you ask? Fundamentally, the oven temperature was too hot for the first part of the cooking. So I lowered it. And the original recipe called for 4 field mushrooms. I upped that number to 10 ounces. I was really pleased with the results. A beautiful puff pastry crust and a densely rich filling makes portion control a really good idea here. I think you could serve 8 easily with one 9 inch pie.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large, ovenproof casserole, heat a glug of olive oil on low heat.
- Add the red onions and sauté them very slowly for about 10 minutes.
- Turn the heat up and add the garlic, butter, carrots, celery, half the cheese and then scatter in the mushrooms. Mix all the vegetables together and then add the beef, the rosemary a pinch of salt and a level teaspoon of black pepper.
- Sauté the beef and vegetables for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Pour in the Guinness, stir in the flour and if necessary, add enough water to cover.
- Bring the dish to a simmer; then cover the casserole with its lid and put it into the oven.
- Bake for an hour and a half, then take the casserole out of the oven, check to see that there’s enough liquid, stir and put it back in the oven for another hour or until the meat is very tender. The pie filling should be rich, dark and thick. If necessary, reduce the liquid on the top of the stove. Be careful not to burn it. Remove from heat and then add the second half of the cheese and stir. At this point, you can put the pie filling aside or proceed. (I made the filling then chilled it, brought it into the city and made the pie another day.)
- To assemble the pie, take two 9 X 9 sheets of puff pastry out of the freezer and thaw for 40 minutes.
- Prepare a pie dish by greasing it with butter or a non-stick spray like Pam.
- Dust a clean work surface with flour, and then roll one sheet of puff pastry out till it is about 1/8 inch thick. Put that sheet on the bottom of the pie plate and let the pastry droop over the sides.
- Gently fill the pie with the beef and vegetable filling.
- Take the second sheet of puff pastry. Roll it out and then take a sharp knife and carefully score the crust in a cross hatch pattern.
- Make an egg wash and brush it over the edge of the bottom pastry.
- Gently place the cross-hatched crust on top of the pie. Put the pie on a sheet pan placed on the bottom of your oven. Bake for an additional 45 minutes. This gave me a beautifully cooked crust–better than any puff pastry I’d ever cooked before.
*Baby Bella mushrooms have more flavor than plain white mushrooms but you can certainly use them if no Baby Bellas are available. This was very well received. I did follow Jamie’s advice and served it with peas. I used the Green Giant “Steamers”. I don’t think the peas were much to write home about. I don’t think they’re as good as Bird’s Eyes Sweet Garden Peas which are less expensive to boot.