Beef and Stout Pie

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Friday was Pi Day. The humour in this is limited – if you write dates in the American format it was 3/14, and pi (the mathematical constant) approximates to 3.14 (if you’re dealing with 2 decimal places). The connection between all of this and pies is tenuous at best.

But we’ve also had a burst of relatively cool weather in Adelaide so for starters I’m more than happy to consider switching on things that generate substantial heat. And I’m also happy to consider eating pie. A hot, home made pie for dinner is definitely cold weather food.

I found this pie recipe on the MiNDFOOD website and tweaked it a little, not least of all because pies have pastry on both the bottom and the top!

Green peppercorns are a great ingredient to cook with: they add bursts of pepperiness along with a hint of sharpness. Just make sure you rinse them first (they will come in brine). You do need to factor in plenty of time for both cooking and cooling the pie filling. You can’t rush the beef being tender and, especially if you are doing a pie properly, you need the filling to be cool because if you hit the pastry with hot pie filling you’ll end up with the dreaded soggy bottom!

We used our piemaker for this and bought pastry (both shortcrust and puff – yes, sometimes dinner just has to happen!) so once the pie filling was complete the actual pie could be be assembled and on the table in about half an hour (20 minutes of that was cooking time). If I were serving this to others, I would bother to at least make my own shortcrust, use individual pie dishes and cook them in the oven. At least … that’s what I tell myself!

Beef and Stout Pie

Ingredients

  • ~ 800 g diced blade steak (or any other cut of beef which works for long slow cooks)
  • 2 onions, very roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 250 mL stout
  • 375 mL beef stock
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 125 mL cream
  • 1 (generous) tbsp green peppercorns, drained and rinsed
  • pastry (for a piemaker)
  • 1 sheet of shortcrust pastry, defrosted
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 140°C (fan, or 160°C conv).
  2. Heat some olive oil in an ovenproof casserole dish and brown the beef in batches.
  3. Set the beef aside and turn down the heat. Add the onion and garlic and soften. Stir often.
  4. Return the beef to the pan and sprinkle over the flour, mixing well. Allow this to cook for a minute or two, before adding the stout, stock and thyme.
  5. Bring to the boil and then take off the heat and put, covered, in the preheated oven. Cook for about an hour and a half until the beef is meltingly tender.
  6. If the gravy is still a little thin, return to the stove and remove the lid - but keep a close eye on it and don't over thicken. It should be no more than the consistency of a thin cream.
  7. Allow to cool a little before adding the cream and pepper corns and set aside to cool fully. The cooling and the addition of the cream will thicken the gravy further.
  8. If using a pie maker, preheat and cut the base (shortcrust) pastry. Line the pie maker, fill (take care not to over fill!) and top with the puff pastry. Cook for the recommended time (in our case 20 minutes) and serve immediately.
https://eatingadelaide.com/beef-stout-pie/

Sunbeam Pie Magic Pie Maker

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Disclaimer: Sunbeam sent me a Pie Magic Family pie maker to test out.

Like all good northern men, Andy is really into pies. He holds very strong opinions about pies too – mostly around how much pastry has to be involved (bottom and top). So when Sunbeam asked me if I’d like to try one of their new additions to the Pie Magic range, I figured that domestic harmony demanded the answer be yes.

Now – once upon a time, I worked as a sales assistant in the electrical department of a major department store. I started in “small electrical” (before graduating to hi-fi) so I have seen (and quite possibly owned) every kitchen gadget under the sun. At the age of 20 (ish) you see a pie maker and think “who the hell needs that?”. That was actually also the response I got when I posted a photo of my newly arrived Pie Magic to Twitter/Instagram.

I know you can buy pie tin(s) and make pies in your oven. And we do that relatively often. My main complaint with this process is the time and energy that it takes. You have to preheat the oven and we find the pie spends a good 40 minutes minimum cooking. And even then, I confess, often the pastry on the bottom is a little soggy. When I read that the Pie Magic was going to deliver me pie in 15-20 minutes that was when I thought we might be on to something.

The Pie Magic Family makes a single, family size pie. It’s a bit bigger than your average toastie machine, so it doesn’t take up too much space. Naturally, there’s a cord tidy, so it’s also easy to store. It comes with a big spatula for getting your pie out and also a pastry cutter. The pastry cutter is one of those simple things that probably took a fair bit of thought to get right. One side cuts the pastry for the base, including slits so that it fits nicely. And the other side cuts the top. Which way round is marked.

IMG_2324base – perfectly sized, with slits to ensure it fits the pie maker snugly

Being non stick everything, there’s no need to grease the Pie Magic. You do, however, need to get it heated up before you start putting your pastry in. Carefully line the base, fill with cooled pie filling, and put on the lid. Not required: water to create the seal, egg wash, hand crimping. Just shut the Pie Magic and wait 15 to 18 minutes.

Andy was a bit sceptical at this point – the lid didn’t look like it was going to be big enough to create a decent seal. He was also complaining about the lack of egg wash – would the pie be golden?

We actually waited 20 minutes, because our pie mixture had come straight from the fridge, and because of concerns about the colour of the top. As you can see – no problems with colour at all. The pastry was all cooked and the filling was piping hot. Everyone was happy.

When it came to getting the pie out Andy was worried that the lid would come off (see, I said he took pies seriously) but the broad spatula and a bit of patience meant that the pie slid out and on to a plate easily and in one piece.

We used home made shortcrust pastry on the bottom and bought puff pastry on top. However, because the Pie Magic closes on the pie you won’t get a puffed up top like you do in the oven – so next time we use it I’m going to try to convince Andy to use shortcrust for the top too.

IMG_2329finished product ready to be devoured

Obviously you can use the Pie Magic for both savoury and sweet pies, and you can also use it for reheating pies. The instruction manual also contains a good selection of recipes most of which are extremely easy.

This is definitely one kitchen toy which is going to get a hammering in our household. It cut down pie making time and hassle by a noticeable amount.

So who needs a pie maker? Actually, it turns out, pretty much anyone who likes eating pie!

Top tip: clean the Pie Magic while it’s still warm. All it will need is a wipe down with a hot soapy cloth.

Jamie Oliver’s Feta and Spinach Pie

Feta & Spinach Pie

It’s been some pretty horrid weather in Adelaide recently – cold (especially when you don’t have central heating) and wet (yep – the washing’s been hanging on the line for about a week) so what was in order for Sunday night supper was something quick and HOT.

There was another constraint: the huge pile of feta cheese in our fridge that had been bought to make a Greek salad to take to a BBQ that we subsequently couldn’t attend.

Salad out of the question, the natural mate of feta is spinach and I remembered seeing Jamie Oliver do a feta and spinach pie as part of his 30 Minute Meals.

My approach took quite a significant departure from his – mainly because we had less spinach and I suspect a considerably larger pan. As a side note, never ever buy Woolworths Own Brand frozen spinach: not only is it from China but our packet was mostly stalk. It really irritates me that I’m yet to locate an Australian grown frozen spinach. If you know of one, let me know!

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

In a pan, toast off a generous handful of pinenuts – pay attention to them and don’t let them burn!

In a bowl, whisk 4 eggs before adding about 200g of crumbled (or finely diced) feta. If you buy your feta from the supermarket you will most likely find that the deli counter sells a selection and you can buy Australian feta much much more cheaply than you’ll buy anything that’s prepackaged. At our supermarket, the deli product is also much better than the packaged stuff, so it’s a win all round.

Add the pine nuts, a pinch of oregano, a pinch of cayenne pepper, a grating of nutmeg, black pepper to taste and a glug of olive oil (if you want to measure, probably about 1tbsp). Finish by adding the zest of about half a lemon. Don’t miss the lemon zest!

Cook the spinach off in a pan. If you’re using frozen spinach (I used a 250g pack) you want to cook the water out, and if you’re using fresh, you want to wilt it so it’s soft. Allow the spinach to cool a little and then stir into the egg mix.

The bit I really like about this recipe is Jamie’s approach to the filo pastry. You know how working with filo can be a real bore … keep it covered with a damp towel, melt butter and brush the sheets and generally spend all afternoon faffing about. None of that with Jamie (well, we’d hardly expect that, would we?).

Take a large sheet of baking paper, sprinkle it with olive oil and then rub the oil all over it. Layer the baking paper with your filo pastry, rubbing olive oil between the layers (do this with your hands – it is so much quicker than trying to use a brush). Now, overall you want at least three layers of pastry but you’re likely to have to overlap sheets to cover the whole of the paper. Try to keep the overlapping to a sensible minimum though – you don’t want 6 (or even 9) sheets of pastry in some parts and only three in others.

When the baking paper is covered, pick the whole lot up and put it in a large, high sided frying pan. There should be a generous overhang. Pour the egg mixture in to the pastry case and fold the overhanging pastry away from the paper and across the top of your pie. You don’t need to fold it neatly – allow it to finish with bits of pastry sticking up: that looks kind of cool.

Now, cook the pie for a few minutes on the stove so that the bottom starts to cook and crisp up. Literally, we are talking about a few minutes here … don’t do what I did, which was wander off and start doing other things, because the pastry can (and will!) start to burn quite easily. Then put the pan in the oven to finish cooking – it will take about 20 minutes and the pastry should turn golden.

Because the pie is cooked on baking paper, it will be easy to slide off on to a plate. However, if, like me, you need to do some surgery on the base, it’s just as easy to flip the pie over. Fortunately, the layers of filo pastry and a palette knife meant I could remove the burnt bits easily, leaving us with a very tasty dinner. Had the base been shortcrust there’s no way I could have rescued our dinner!

Andy rightly pointed out that this would be brilliant made in smaller pans for an entrée and I think you could definitely do something canapé sized using something like a minced pie tin.

The most important thing though is not to skip on the lemon zest – this noticeably lifts the flavour of the whole dish. With all the cheese and egg having a little something cut through that richness is just perfect.