Humble Beef Pie

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We use beef cheek in this pie, which is the perfect cut of meat. It braises really well, holds its shape, has a beautiful, earthy, gelatinous meaty flavour and most importantly, it doesn’t dry out like so many other braising cuts. Having said that, the beef cheek can be annoying to clean, so it is best to ask your butcher to do it for you, and then have it diced into 2–3 cm (¾ – 1¼ inch) cubes. For the best result, order an extra 100 g ( oz) of beef cheek so that you can trim all the sinew off, but be sure to check the final weight before adding to the filling.

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Ingredients

  • 40 ml ( fl oz/2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
  • 150 g ( oz) onions, peeled and cut into 1–1.5 cm (½–⅝ inch) cubes
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
  • 150 g ( oz) carrots, cut into 1–1.5 cm (½–⅝ inch) cubes
  • 150 g ( oz) celery, cut into 1–1.5 cm (½–⅝ inch) cubes
  • 375 g (13 oz) tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 55 ml ( fl oz) malt vinegar
  • 10 g (¼ oz/2 teaspoons) salt
  • g (1/16 oz/1 teaspoon) white pepper
  • 900 g (2 lb) cubed beef cheeks, trimmed of fat, cut into 2–3 cm (¾–1¼ inch) cubes
  • 4 g ( oz/1 teaspoon) potato flour
  • 1 quantity savoury shortcrust pastry
  • ½ quantity puff pastry
  • egg wash, for brushing

Method

Heat the oil in a saucepan over low heat and cook the onion, garlic and thyme for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the carrot and celery and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomato, vinegar, salt and pepper and simmer for a further 5 minutes, stirring to combine.

Add the beef to the pan and pour in enough water to cover the meat. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 2 hours, skimming and stirring every 20 minutes or so, until the meat is just tender but still with texture. The beef should not be falling apart and the liquid should be noticeably thicker. Do not overcook the beef, as it will continue to cook when it cools down and will be cooked again when you bake the pie itself. If the beef cheek is poorly trimmed you may end up with pieces that are mostly gristle — these pieces should be spooned out of the mix and thrown away.

When the beef pieces are just tender, remove to a plate and set aside. Strain the cooking liquid and return to the warm pan over high heat. Continue cooking the liquid until reduced by about one-third. Mix together the potato flour and 2 teaspoons water and add to the cooking liquid, stirring well to combine. Return the beef to the liquid. Season with more salt and white pepper, to taste. Pour the mixture into a container with a large surface area, to cool the mix down as quickly as possible, stirring every now and again as it cools.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Roll out the savoury pastry following the instructions and use it to line the base and sides of six 12.5 cm ( inch) pie tins. Roll out the puff pastry following the instructions and cut out six circles with a 13.5 cm ( inch) diameter to make the pie lids.

Spoon the mixture into the pastry-lined pie tins, filling them to the brim. To attach the puff pastry lids, brush the rim of the pastry base and lid with a little egg wash and lay the lid over the base. Pinch gently between your thumb and index finger to make a good seal around the circumference edge. Brush the top of the pie lid with egg wash and make a small hole in the middle to allow steam to escape. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4) and bake the pies for 30–35 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove the pies from the tins and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

If you ask most people ‘What is Australian cuisine?’ they will often answer, ‘The meat pie’. A perfect pie has the ability to take us all back to our childhood. At Bourke Street Bakery we have spent many hours toiling over a simmering pot, stirring our nationalism into this tasty pie filling. When we thought we had the mix just right, we gave the pie to the chief ‘pie eater’ (Paul’s father) who claimed that it had too much flavour! We increased the proportion of beef cheek and this is our final version of the humble beef pie.