Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Way to a Man's Heart: Scotch Ale Pie

I feel I should share something – I don’t eat red meat. No beef, lamb, ham, bacon, pork, rabbit, kangaroo, goat, horse, camel… you get the idea. I was a proper vegetarian for year. I gave it up in the face of delicious salmon steaks and roast chicken dinners, but I just can’t take that final step. So, why the share? The thing is, a lot of recipes using beer are kind of…meaty. All types of meat seem to really work well with beer, whether as a marinade, carbonade, brining, braising or stew. Sure, I can keep myself busy baking with beer, but I do need a break from all those carbs occasionally.

Love is a powerful emotion. So powerful it has even allowed me to put aside my aversion to red meat and cook with it. My husband doesn’t share this aversion to meatiness. Valentines day this year was our first as a married couple, so I decided to spoil the man with a beer soaked meal. As all good wives know, you should feed the man meat, so I decided to whip up a delicious scotch ale pot pie (I also made myself a chicken ale pie – I’m not going to starve!).

Ale pie recipes are not hard to come by. They are never too specific about what kind of beer to use though. I went with a Scotch ale (specifically the BrewBoys Seeing Double), because not only did I think it would work well with the beef, but it is also one of the man’s favourite beer styles. I fully admit to being lazy and buying the pastry for the top. A better cook may have made that too, but I wanted to focus on getting the filling right (as well as making my own pie, and the sides, and dessert). I can’t comment much on the finished product, as I didn’t taste it, but the husband seemed to enjoy it and is still alive to tell the tale. In fact, he noted that the scotch ale flavour was deliciously robust throughout the whole pie.

What it takes:

500g steak (best to use a cheaper cut – it actually tastes better)
1 tablespoon olive oil
100g shallots – peeled and quartered
125g small button mushrooms – cut into halves
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon tomato paste
250ml (1 cup) scotch ale
150ml (3/4 cups) beef stock
1 sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon of cornflour
Frozen puff pastry (or you can make your own, if you have the time and nous)
1 egg – beaten - to brush

How to make it work:

Cut the steak into medium chunks – about 2cm cubes. Heat the oil to high in a large, heavy saucepan. Brown the meat evenly in batches, then remove from the pan and cover with foil.

Turn the heat down to low and add the shallots and mushrooms to the remaining oil. Cook until they are soft and golden. Stir in Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste. Pour in beer and stock and add the herbs. Return the meat to pan (and any juices that are on the plate) and bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Stir every now and then to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom or burning.

Blend cornflour with two tablespoons of cold water, stir into the steak mixture and cook for a couple more minutes until thickened. Cool completely.

Preheat oven to 190°C. Roll out the pastry to fit top of pie dish (or dishes – I made two small pies). There should be 1-2 centimetres of extra pastry hanging over the edge. Fill dish with meat mixture. Brush the outer rim with water and place pastry over the top, pressing the edges down to seal. Brush with egg and bake in the oven for 30 minutes until puffed and golden. Allow to sit for five minutes or so before serving.

Drink more Scotch Ale with the pie, or a malty beer such as an ESB or Amber Ale. You need something with a bit of flavour to stand up to the pie, but nothing too hoppy or bitter.

I served the pie with a side of vegetables (those things that are often on your plate next to the meat) and the Homebrew Chef’s roasted garlic IPA mash (made with Murray’s Icon 2IPA), and followed by a dessert of double chocolate beer-a-misu (made with the Holgate Temptress, of course!). I think I definitely earned some brownie points. Hmmm...brownies...

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