Spiced Beef and Chestnut Pie

There is something about the appearance of a pie, with its cheering, golden glow, that always suits a special occasion. Pies are also useful for parties because they can be prepared in advance and kept warm in the oven for some time without spoiling. And everyone seems to like them! This one, with its rich and crumbly pastry, is perfect for a Christmas celebration. You can serve it with just one green vegetable or simply a salad.

Ingredients

For the filling

  • 1 oz (25 g) butter
  • 2 large onions, sliced coarsely
  • 2 lb (1 kg) braising steak, cut into 1-2-inch (2.5-5 cm) chunks
  • 1 heaped teaspoon (5 ml heaped spoon) ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml spoon) juniper berries, crushed coarsely
  • 2 teaspoons (2 x 5 ml spoons) bottled green peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml spoon) caster sugar
  • ¼ pint (150 m) red wine
  • 10 oz (300 g) canned whole chestnuts, drained
  • salt, black pepper

For the Pastry

  • 8 oz (250 g) plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml spoon) salt
  • 3 oz (75 g) lard
  • 3 Oz (75 g) frozen butter
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml spoon) cold water
  • milk or egg yolk, to glaze

Method

Heat the butter in a flameproof casserole or heavy based frying-pan and fry the onions over a medium to high heat until soft and brown. Using a slotted spatula, transfer the onions to a plate on one side. Then add the braising steak and fry over a high heat, stirring, until sealed all over. Add the allspice and after a minute remove it from the heat. Heat the oven to Gas Mark 2/300°F/150°C. Return the onion to the pan and add the crushed juniper berries and green peppercorns. Season with salt, a very little black pepper and the caster sugar. Pour in the wine. Return to the heat and bring to the boil. Transfer to a casserole, if using a frying-pan. Cover and put in the centre of the oven for 1½-2 hours.

While the meat is cooking make the pastry. Sift the flour and salt in a bowl and rub in the lard with your fingertips until it is like fine breadcrumbs. Coarsely grate the frozen butter and add it to the flour, mixing it in lightly with a knife. Then add the whisked egg and the cold water and mix it with a knife until the dough begins to stick together. Press lightly into a ball, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge.

When the meat is tender, gently stir in the chestnuts, transfer the mixture to a -pint (1.5-litre) pie dish and leave until cold. Then take the pastry from the fridge and knead it slightly to make it manageable. Take off a piece of dough and form it with your hands into a long strip to put around the rim of the pie dish. Moisten the rim and put the strip in position. Roll out the remaining pastry into a piece just big enough to top the pie dish. Press the edges together lightly and trim them neatly all round . Roll out the trimmings and cut out decorations. Cut two small holes in the top of the pie for steam to escape. If there is time, put the pie in the fridge for 30 minutes or more before cooking.

Heat the oven to Gas Mark 7/425°F/220°C. Brush the pie with milk or egg yolk for a really golden glaze and bake it in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes; then turn down the heat to Gas Mark 4/350°C/180°C and bake it for another 15-20 minutes.

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