Rather indulgent, relatively time-consuming but surprisingly cheap and incredibly tasty. I picked up 700g of beef brisket from a local market butcher for £5 and you can probably get it even cheaper than that. Overall this cost about £1.50 a head and you could easily increase the veg:meat ratio, or include potatoes in the pie to reduce overall cost. Splitting the chopping between your mates can really cut down the preparation time too. You could even scrap the pastry altogether and just have a bloody gorgeous casserole.
700g cheap beef cut (brisket, shin, skirt)
500ml ginger beer
2 onions, diced
3 carrots, chopped
1 cup of peas
1 tbspn tomato purée
a good glug of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dark brown sugar (any sugar will do)
2 tspn dried thyme (or even better some fresh sprigs)
2 tspn ground ginger (again, even better if you have some fresh)
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 stock cube (beef or vegetable)
salt/pepper to taste
As I bought my brisket fully formed (and therefore, cheaper) first I chopped it up into 1 inch cubes (ish). Brown the cubes in some butter in a large cast iron casserole dish. Add diced onions and sliced carrots, cook for a couple of minutes till soft. Add water at any point if you feel the pan is getting dry. Then slug in the ginger beer, tomato purée, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, thyme, ginger, salt, pepper and chopped garlic. Throw in a beef stock cube (made up to about 300ml) for good measure. Cover and leave to simmer for about an hour and a half. Check and stir every so often to make sure nothing sticks to the pan. Meanwhile…
400g plain flour
1/2 tspn salt
Decent pastry is no great mystery. I’m no expert by any stretch of the imagination but I guarantee home-made, buttery pastry beats any pre-made supermarket stuff any day. And seeing as your filling’s gonna be bubbling away for the next 90 minutes you’ve got some time to kill. Seriously, it’s a great skill to have.
I use the pastry recipe in the Pieminister “Pie For All Seasons” book. Grab yourself a glass of water first as trying to fetch one with pastry-y hands is a nightmare. Sift the flour and salt and add the butter/margarine. Use your hands to rub together into breadcrumbs. Then s-l-o-w-l-y add water (you won’t need much), clumping the crumbs together with your hands until they form a nice dough ball. I think it’s better to have slightly too much water than slightly too little as the pastry will be hard to work without cracking if too dry. Wrap in clingfilm and whack in the fridge for half an hour.
A Pie Comes Together
After your filling’s been simmering for an hour and a half, remove the lid and cook for a further 30 minutes, still stirring every so often and adding liquid if necessary. During this time, roll out your pastry to approximately £1 coin thickness, line your chosen pie dish with the pastry base (remember to leave enough for your lid!), prick several times with a fork and blind-bake for approximately 20 minutes at 18ooC. Check regularly! Roll out your pie lid in preparation.
Eventually you want your filling to reduce down to a thick gravy that will have all the beefy juices – and that’s probably a great time to chuck in your peas. Remove your gorgeous home-made pastry from the oven and scoop in the filling. Place the lid on the pie, crimp the edges and prick with a fork. Brush the top with milk or beaten egg for a shiny glaze. Whack in the oven for a further 30-40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. We served ours with homemade thick cut roasted chips.
Now at the this point I must admit we were so famished that I may have completely failed to take any decent pictures and just scoffed my face. But…I’ll try harder next time.