I have been participating in a weekly challenge hosted by the PnP Fresh Living Magazine called Freshly Blogged. Every Friday they email us a list of ingredients and we are challenged with coming up with a recipe, cooking it and photographing it by the following Wednesday afternoon. This beef pie is my submission to the 2nd week’s challenge. What I am loving about this exercise is that I am being pushed to work with ingredients I would not normally have the courage or the knowledge to consider. With each week I am learning so much, each week creeping a little further beyond my self-inflicted limitations such as lack of confidence in my cooking, procrastination and impatience.
I tasted and tested various recipes so much that at present, I don’t think anyone in my household, including pets and myself, can bear the smell of beef stew for the time being! We all lived off the results of it, family, friends, employees and pets, because I cooked and cooked and cooked and that is all that was available for a week. Every lunch and supper. I had some spectacular failures and some that tasted decent, but looked horrid. Or vice versa. Anyway!
Before this recipe, I had only ever heard of suet but never really seen it or considered working with it. Since then, with a lot of research, I’ve practically become an expert (ha!) and a fan. Suet is beef fat that has a higher smoking point than most fats and oils. It can withstand very high temperatures before dissolving, which makes it perfect for pastry. The spaces it occupies in the pastry during cooking become pockets of air when it melts into the dough. It’s flavourless, resilient and fantastically cheap. In fact, this entire recipe is really economical. I call it ‘lazy’ because the initial effort is minimal. You chuck all the ingredients into one dish, leave it to cook and then drape it with a pie topping. The only trick is that you need to make it a day ahead, but then you have at least a meal or two sorted without much extra work for the week.
To render the suet
Put the contents of the punnet into a saucepan on low heat and let it dissolve slowly. When only oil and grey bits are left, pour contents through a sieve into a jar. Reserve fat, which can be frozen, and discard grey bits.
For the filling
1 punnet PnP soup mix (carrot, celery, leek)
500g beef shin
2 Knorr Beef Stock Pots
50g sachet tomato paste
2 PnP star anise
1 litre water
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp flour
For the pie crust topping
1 punnet beef suet
1 star anise
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celcius.
Roughly chop onion, celery and leeks. Dice carrot into small pieces as it takes the longest to cook. Put meat, stock, veg, tomato paste and 2 star anise into a Dutch oven or deep oven dish with lid. Fill with just enough water to submerge the contents. Drizzle with 2 tbsp of vinegar, which helps to make the meat extra tender. Cover tightly with a sheet of foil and put on the lid. Place in oven and cook slowly for 2 hours or until meat is tender and separating easily from the bone.
To reduce the liquid and thicken it for the pie, put a tbsp of suet in a large pot over medium heat. When the fat has melted, sprinkle a tbsp of flour in pot and mix with a wooden spoon until cooked a bit. Add the second tbsp and mix to make a roux, or paste. Put a colander into the pot and pour the meat, veg and liquid into it. Reserve the meat and veg mix for later, letting it cool. Fish out the star anise and add to liquid. Bring liquid to a simmer and reduce heat. Stir occasionally until liquid has thickened (about 10 minutes). Once meat mix and liquid have cooled, combine them in one dish and refrigerate overnight. This will develop the flavours.
Pie crust topping
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius.
Place meat filling in a pie dish or two small, deep, oven proof bowls. Mix 200g flour and 100g rendered suet (it can be in its solid form) in a bowl with water. Knead until it forms a dough. Dust a surface and rolling pin with flour and roll out dough until it is about 5mm thick and can cover dish comfortably. Lightly beat an egg and brush the top and edges. Cut a small slit in the middle and stick remaining star anise over it for decoration. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until crust is cooked.
If you consider this a worthy recipe, and have some spare time, and feel like winning a Knorr hamper, please fling a vote this way: my lazy beef pie needs a vote or three