STEAK AND MUSHROOM PIE

It’s all about the PIE in the U.K.  Whether it’s lunch time, tea time or a take-away, pies are everywhere … hot, warm, or cold … pork pies, steak pies, chicken pies, fish pies, even mixed veg pies.  Eaten at home, at a restaurant, or while walking down the street, the pie can be a complete meal, or just a snack.  From the pie shop to the butchers to the grocery store to Mom’s kitchen, everyone has their favorite and everyone loves their pies!!

We’ve just returned from England and the first thing hubby had to have while we were there was … a pie!  How many did he have during our week’s visit?  Too many to count.  Pies are English comfort food at its best.  I must say I do enjoy an occasional pie myself.  I’ve made them many times before, and have posted the recipe for, my favorite, Chicken and Leek Pie, but today it’s going to be the classic Steak and Mushroom Pie.  So, let’s get going!

I’m topping this pie with a puff pastry crust (yes, from the frozen food department of the grocery store).  You can top your pie with a short-crust if you’d like, or even a cobbler or biscuit topping.  It’s entirely up to you.  Whichever you choose, this is not a difficult pie to make at all.  Perfect for a cold Sunday afternoon.

STEAK AND MUSHROOM PIE
Stove top cooking for approximately 1-1/2 hours.  Preheated oven 400°F.  Bakes for approximately 25 to 30 minutes.  Serves 4 to 6.

2-1/2 lbs. chuck steak, trimmed and cubed
4 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper
2 or 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 lg. onion, chopped
2 lg. carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cups good beef stock
1 cup stout or ale
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 pint button mushrooms, quartered
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten

In a large plastic bag, put the flour and 1 teaspoon salt and pepper.  Shake it about to incorporate.  Then add the cubed, trimmed steak.  Shake the bag to coat the steak evenly.

On the stove, in a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium/high heat.  Add a few pieces at a time of the coated steak to brown.  If you add all the steak at once, the oil temperature will cool down too quickly and the steak will just steam.  Take the seared steak out, put it aside and brown more.  After all the steak has been nicely seared, put the onions and carrots into the pot, reduce the heat a bit and cook til softened – about 5 minutes.

Put the browned steak back into the pot.  Pour in the beef stock (homemade or store bought), the ale (Guiness is perfect) and tomato paste.  Combine well and then add the bay leaves.  Taste to adjust the seasoning – adding salt and pepper as needed.

Cover tightly, reduce the heat to low and let simmer gently for about an hour.  After an hour, add the mushrooms.  Let simmer again for about 15 minutes, leaving the cover off or halfway (depending upon how much liquid is in the pot) and  taste again to adjust the seasoning.  Meanwhile, prepare the crust.  Roll the puff pastry out on a lightly floured board just a bit.  Don’t roll it too thin.  You want a nice hearty crust.

If you are making one casserole, then nothing else needs to be done – except for cutting a hole in the middle for the steam to escape while baking.  If you are making individual servings, as I did, then cut the pastry for the amount of dishes you are making.  I made six ramekins – so I cut the pastry into six pieces – with a hole in the center of each one.

Preheat the oven now.  From the pot, fill the casserole dish or dishes.  Around the rim of each dish, brush on the beaten egg.  Now fit the pastry crust onto the dish, pressing tightly around the edges.  Trim away any excess pastry.  (Next time, however, I am not going to trim the crust.  I’m going to leave it hanging over the sides – shrinkage does occur  : ).  Brush the top of the pastry with the beaten egg.

Place the casserole dish or dishes onto a baking tray – leaking can occur.  Place the tray into the oven at 400° and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the pastry is nicely browned.  When it’s browned, it’s ready!  Remove from the oven and eat!

This hearty beef stew with its rich gravy and buttery crust is soooo satisfying … a complete meal in itself.  Serve this pie with a side salad and crusty bread and you have the perfect comfort food for a cold winter’s night.


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Toad in the Hole … my way!

For  hubby, this is comfort food to end all comfort foods!  Toad in the Hole … really?  Who am I to say what is comfort food.  For me, it’s Mac ‘n Cheese!  At least with Mac ‘n Cheese you have an idea of what it is. Toad in the Hole . Bubble ‘n Squeak . Jam Roly Poly . Spotted Dick . where do the Brits get these names?

The origins of Toad in the Hole, which are sausages baked in a Yorkshire Pudding (aka Popover) batter, generally served with onion gravy, are sketchy.  Some food historians theorize that this dish originated in the late 1600’s when a flour and egg batter (now known as Yorkshire Pudding) was placed under the meat while it was cooking on an open spit, in order to catch the drippings. Others say that “no, it wasn’t until the early 1800’s” that this type of batter was used.

Today this very economical dish is traditionally made with bangers (sausages).  But in The Modern Housewife by Alexis Soyer (1850), she suggests using “any remains of cooked beef, veal, mutton, pork, roasted or boiled, salt or fresh, game and fowl”.  As a result, you can see that this dish was probably not served to the aristocrats or royalty, but rather to the working class and poor. Dishes like this, however, are what we have all come to love.  Comfort food!

Where did the name come from?  No one is really certain.  Does the finished dish look like toads poking up out of a quagmire?  Was the dish originally made using toads or frogs?  Or was it named after a pub game of tossing discs into holes in a pub table?

All I know is, tonight I’m making Toad in the Hole – My Way!  Why am I calling it My Way? Because I think the original recipe is a little bland, so I am kicking it up just a bit with Harissa and adding onions coated in a mixture of Ketchup and Chili Sauce.  Like many family recipes, there are quite a few variations. Give this one a try and let me know what you think.

TOAD IN THE HOLE (my way)
1 cup all purpose flour
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk (whole or 2%)
salt and pepper
1 tsp Harissa seasoning (or more to taste)
8 to 10 good quality pork sausages (sweet or spicy)
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
2 onions, sliced
olive oil
4 tablespoons sausage drippings

Make the batter first  and then set it aside for at least 30 minutes (up to 3 or 4 hours).

Into a bowl sift 1 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste and the Harissa seasoning.

Mix together and make a well in the center.  Add 4 eggs and beat well.

Add the milk while beating the mixture.  Be s ure to beat til smooth and lump free.  Set aside.

 

Preheat the oven to 400°.

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and brown the sausages.  I prefer spicy sausages, but you can use sweet, or flavoured.

When nicely browned put the sausages into an ovenproof baking dish (approx. 13″ x 9″).

In the same saute pan add a bit more olive oil and, over medium heat, saute the sliced onions. Season with salt and pepper. When they are soft (about 10 minutes) add the ketchup and sweet chili sauce, coating the onions well.  Pour this over the sausages in the baking dish.

If you do not have 4 tablespoons of drippings after cooking the sausages and onions, make up the difference with olive oil.  Add it to the baking dish and then put the baking dish into the 400° oven for 5 minutes until everything gets very hot.

Remove the dish from the oven and quickly pour the batter over the sausages and onions.  Pop the dish back into the oven and bake for 35 minutes.  Don’t peek!  You want the Yorkshire Pudding to puff up and if you are opening and closing the door, it will deflate.

When the pudding is golden brown, and still a bit soft in the middle, it is ready.  Serve immediately with a crisp green salad.  Hot, crisp and soft with a bit of heat from the Harissa … English comfort food!!

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References:  BBC Food, The Telegraph, Britain Explorer,