A tale of two beef dishes

I was in an English Food mood this weekend, partly due to Sam’s ‘English Food is not a joke’ challenge (and see previous post for more on that). I had bought a couple of packets of braising beef last week, with a vague plan to make some stew over the weekend that would act as an easy ready meal this week when I knew there would be a couple of late nights. In the end, I split the packets up and used them two different ways, both very satisfying and highly English. First on the agenda was pasties – good lunch food for those painting and decorating all weekend. The second packet went into a version of Jamie Oliver’s dark sticky stew, a basic beef stew enriched with Guinness and marmite – highly flavoured comfort food for a Sunday night.

I also made a batch of scones with the heat from the same oven as the pasties. It’s easy to forget how easy scones really are, with their connotations of an elaborate Victorian tea. But it took only 30 minutes from deciding to make them to taking them out of the oven. The finishing touch to a very English weekend (even if we did eat them with Creme Fraiche and jam).

Cornish Pasties
I adapted this from Gary Rhodes’ recipe in ‘New British Classics’, my only significant aberration being to substitute carrots for the traditional swede (which I didn’t have any of). I also substituted some strong white bread flour in the pastry, to help make it a little tougher and more robust. This only partly worked – my pastry was still a bit fragile. I have also specified a smaller sized pasty – Gary suggests only 4 from this mixture, but I found these too large, and therefore tricky to eat in one go.

For the pastry:
200g strong white bread flour
200g plain flour
100g butter
100g lard

450g braising beef (chuck, flank and rump could all be used), cut into 1cm cubes
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
2 carrots, peeled, halved and sliced
1 medium onion, finely chopped

Make the pastry. This is made as normal shortcrust pastry – make sure you season the flour well. My preferred method is to put the fat and flour into the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes, then use the food processor to cut in the fat, and add cold water to bring the pastry together in the processor. Turn the dough out and knead it lightly to make a stronger pastry, then wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut up the meat and season well with salt and pepper. Prepare all the vegetables, and divide each type into 4 piles.

Once 30 minutes has passed, remove the pastry from the fridge. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, and, taking one piece at a time, roll each one out into a circle about the thickness of a pound coin (around 3mm). Arrange 1/8th of the meat and vegetables in layers down the centre of the circle, first the potatoes and carrots, then the meat and finally the onions. Season well with salt and white pepper (if you have it). Brush the edge of the circle with water all the way around, and bring the edges together. Press the edges together and then crimp the top to seal it well. Place on lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining pieces of pastry dough.

Chill for 20 minutes, then bake at 180C for 1 hour. Allow to cool a little before eating.

A Dark Sticky Stew
Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Dark Sticky Stew in ‘Jamie’s Kitchen’.

450g braising beef steak
2 tablespoons flour
2 sprigs thyme, finely chopped
2 small onions, chopped
3 large carrots, cut into batons
8 – 10 mushrooms, quartered
1 rib celery, finely chopped
125ml Guinness
500ml chicken stock
1 teaspoon Marmite

Preheat the oven to 170C. Combine the thyme and flour and toss with the beef until it’s coated. Heat some olive oil in a casserole dish, and brown the beef really well in two batches. Remove the beef and put to one side. Soften and brown the vegetables in the same pan. Then add the Guinness, reduce and add the chicken stock, Marmite and add the beef back in. Cover with a lid and put into the oven for 1 hour, or until the beef is tender. Serve with boiled potatoes (or even better, mash) and some cabbage or broccoli.

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