Steak & ale pies


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


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Appears in

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South: The history of British Baking, savoury and sweet

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South

By Regula Ysewijn

Published 2020

  • About

This pie is a real pub classic. If you want to eat it like they do in the pub, then serve it with steamed peas, carrots and thick-cut chips. You can also make these pies with left-over stew – just halve the recipe for the dough if necessary. The variation with Stilton cheese is another example of a classic British pie and if you want to go Victorian style, add a couple of raw oysters to the stew. This used to be the custom to make the meat stretch further when oysters were poor people’s food. Times do change!


For the filling

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 800 g (1 lb 12 oz) beef chuck steak
  • 2-3 tbsp flour, for dusting the meat
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste (concentrated purée)
  • 250 ml (9 fl oz) Guinness, stout, porter or bitter dark beer (or use beef stock for an alcohol-free alternative)
  • 1 slice of bread spread with English mustard
  • oil, for frying

For the Steak & Stilton variation

  • 80-100 g (2¾-3½ oz) Stilton cheese

For the shortcrust pastry

  • 600 g (1 lb 5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 150 g ( oz) chilled butter, diced
  • 150 g ( oz) cheddar cheese, grated, or 150 g ( oz) butter
  • 150 ml (5 fl oz) water
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp milk, for egg wash


For six 16 cm (6 ¼ inch) pie pans

Make the filling by frying the onion and carrot in a flameproof casserole dish. Roll the meat in the flour, then add it to the vegetables. Briefly brown the meat, then add the tomato paste and stir until well combined. Deglaze the pan with the beer.

Bring to the boil, then add the slice of bread with mustard. Stir until the bread falls apart. Cover and simmer for 1 ½-2 hours. I do this step in a 160°C (320°F) oven, because I don’t like leaving a casserole full of hot food on the hob for so long. When the stew is cooked, let it cool.

Make the pastry by combining the flour, salt, butter and cheese in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse for 8 seconds or until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the water and pulse again until the dough forms a ball in the bowl. Remove from the bowl and knead briefly. You can also do this by hand by rubbing the butter into the flour and salt until it is the consistency of breadcrumbs, then add the water. Remove from the bowl and knead to bring the pastry together. Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F) and grease the pie pans with butter.

Set aside one-third of the pastry for the lids. Roll out the remainder on a floured work surface until 3 mm (⅛ inch) thick. Roughly cut the pastry into four pieces. Gently lift each piece of pastry over a pie pan and let it sink into the base. Let the excess dough hang over the edge to help attach the pastry lid. Use a piece of dough to press the edges into the tins.

Roll out the pastry for the lids and fill the pies with the cooled stew.

For Steak & Stilton pies, crumble the Stilton cheese and add it to the cooled stew before filling the pies.

Place a piece of pastry on top of each pie and use a sharp knife to cut the excess pastry from the base and top. Squeeze the edges together so that the pies do not open during baking. You can decorate the pies with left-over pastry.

Brush the top of each pie with the egg wash. Bake in the middle of the oven for 40-50 minutes until the pies are golden brown. Serve the pub way, with steamed peas and carrots, chips or roast potatoes.

You can also freeze the unbaked pies, and bake them straight from the freezer.