Spicy Beef and Guinness Pie

A golden pie which looks and tastes extra-special. It is most suitable for one of your festive meals as it can be prepared well beforehand and will only need putting into the oven to bake. If you have an aversion to prunes don’t be put off - they disintegrate in the stout and produce the most delicious, rich, dark sauce. The juniper berries are optional but can be found in most delicatessens and will add tantalisingly to the flavour. Allspice is best ground from whole berries but you can also buy it ground Gust to muddle you it is sometimes known as Pimento or Jamaica pepper). If you can’t find allspice use more nutmeg and two more cloves. For the top you can use packet puff pastry if you like but the easy flaky pastry is very little trouble and beautifully crisp. Make your pastry first or while the pie filling is cooking.

Ingredients

For the easy flaky pastry

  • 8 oz (200 g) plain flour
  • good pinch salt
  • 6 oz (150 g) from an 8 oz block frozen butter or margarine
  • 6 tablespoons (6 x 15 ml spoon) very cold water - preferably
  • chilled in the fridge
  • For the glaze - 1 egg yolk

For the pie filling

  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml spoon) whole allspice berries
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml spoon) juniper berries (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml spoon) oil
  • ¼-½ whole nutmeg - grated
  • 2-3 large cloves garlic - chopped finely
  • 2 lb (800 g) lean stewing beef - chopped in cubes
  • ½ pt bottle Guinness or other stout
  • 8 oz (200 g) large prunes - soaked in water overnight
  • 1 lb (400 g) carrots - cleaned and sliced
  • salt, black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons (2 x 5 ml spoon) arrowroot

Method

To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Put a grater into the bowl on top of the flour. Hold the frozen butter in its wrapping and coarsely grate off 6 oz (three-quarters of the block). With a palette knife mix the fat into the flour until crumbly. Now add the water gradually, mixing again with the knife and then gather the dough up with your hands into a ball. Wrap in foil or polythene and put in the fridge for at least an hour.

Heat the oven to Gas Mark 1/275°F/140°C. Crush the allspice and cloves together in a pestle and mortar or in a coffee grinder, add the juniper berries and crush roughly. Heat the oil in the bottom of an iron casserole. Put the crushed spices together with the grated nutmeg and chopped garlic into the hot oil and stir over the heat for ½ minute. Add the beef and just seal all over for 2-3 minutes over a high heat. Stir in the stout and ½ cup water.

Remove the stones from the soaked prunes and add. Bring to the boil and then cover the dish and cook in the oven at Gas Mark 1/275°F/140°C for an hour. (Make the pastry now if you haven’t already.) Then add the carrots and continue cooking for a further 1-1½ hours until the meat is tender. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Blend the arrowroot with a spot of water and stir in. Bubble for a minute or two on top of the stove. Then pour into a 2½-pt pie dish and leave until cold. When the filling is cold, roll out the pastry on a floured surface to roughly the size and shape of the pie dish.

Moisten the edge of the dish and lay the pastry on top. Cut round the edges and press down lightly. Roll out the trimmings and use to make a pattern, or cut-out letters to read “Happy Christmas”! Cover the pastry loosely with plastic film or foil and put the complete dish in the fridge until the next day, or in the freezer (if the freezer, remember to defrost before baking).

To bake, heat the oven to Gas Mark 7/425°F/220°C. Brush the pastry all over with egg yolk and cook in the centre of the oven for about 20 minutes until a rich golden brown. Serve with a green salad.

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