My sister gave me a set of traditional enamel pie tins for my birthday, and as I was planning to do some classic home-made dishes I felt obliged to test them out. The mechanics of making a pie can be so simple; just make a stew, top with pastry or mashed potato and bake. A British institution; shepherd’s pie, steak and kidney pie, fish pie, cottage pie, pork pie… all are established classics. Steak and ale pie has always been a favourite of mine, a steaming hearty beef and ale stew topped with buttery puff pastry. Usually a dark, strong flavoured ale would be used for this, but I wanted to try it with Guinness to make it extra dark and extra rich. To balance the bitterness I added sweet carrots, and plenty of them. Onions will also be there to lend sweetness – how could you serve beef without onions?
Out of all the cuts from the ‘beast’, I have a soft spot for beef shin. I first used it when making ‘Peposo’, the classic Italian peasant dish made with red wine, garlic and tons of black pepper. The meat is slowly cooked on the bone, so you end up with a rich meaty jus as you are effectively cooking the meat and making beef stock at the same time. This is basically what I did for my pie – which should now be called “Shin of Beef, Carrot and Guinness Pie”. I got my beef shin from the butcher and asked for large chunks, along with some beef bones which he threw in the bag for free. I slowly braised the meat and bones in Guinness, using the resulting braising liquid to make gravy. It was fantastic.