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Monday, April 4, 2011

Beef & Mushroom (& Red Wine) Pie

Beef & Mushroom red wine pie with potato pastry.

Have always loved meat pies, probably because when I was growing up, there was only one western restaurant in town and their pies were to us what pizzas are to kids now.

I balk at making pies because there's so much work, especially since I don't like store-bought pastry. I've told you before about the pastry course I took years ago that made me suspect all pastries. Commercial pastry is made with pastry margarine, a white and waxy fat that doesn't melt easily and so make the crustiest and shortest pastry because it melts only under high heat which separates the layers of dough, unlike butter which melts when kneaded, resulting in tough dough if not properly handled (my English teacher would give that sentence an 'F'). Just think what that hard margarine does in your blood vessels. Plus, if you've made pastry before, you'll know how much fat goes into it to make it short and flaky.

I've never made potato pastry and was surprised at how deliciously short and light it tasted, partly due to the self-raising flour. The potatoes also gave the pastry extra flavor. However, the pastry was soft and crumbly and I couldn't turn the pies out so potato pastry should be used for making pot pies only. If the potato pastry is rolled too thick, the texture can taste rather cake-like so make it about 1/2 cm thin. Since this is not short crust pastry, the texture is soft and crumbly but not very crusty.

As for the meat filling, I halved the wine and it was still too much because the wine flavor was over-whelming and the meat filling tasted very tart. I had to add quite a bit of sugar. I wanted to use ground beef because I knew my mom and in laws would prefer that to beef chunks. Ground beef also cooks much faster. But the ground beef exuded too much oil when fried so I ran to the supermarket to get some beef blade to add to the ground beef. Despite cutting the beef into small 2 cm cubes and cooking until it was very tender, Wey said he found the chunks too stringy for his teeth and preferred ground beef so next time, I will get beef blade and mince the beef myself.

The recipe below is a combination of the beef and red wine pie and beef and mushroom pie recipes in Exclusively Food a wonderful website that I just found and now visit regularly for updates.

Beef & Mushroom Pie (makes 6 large or 8 medium individual pies)
1 kg beef chuck or blade or mince
2 T veg oil
2 cloves garlic
1 T plain flour
1 1/2 T tomato paste
1 T Worchestershire sauce
1/2 t dried thyme (or 1 t fresh, minced)
125 ml (1/2 cup) red wine (2 cups for red wine pies)
500 ml (2 cups) beef stock
1 cup water
1 T sugar (optional)
2 bay leaves
500 gm white cap mushrooms (I added shiitake mushrooms; cheaper), coarsely chopped
salt (about 1 t or more) & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 T cornflour + 1 T water

egg wash: 1 egg, half the white removed & beaten well

1. In a heavy saucepan, add a small amount of oil and brown the beef in very small batches. If you fry too much at once, the beef will sweat and will not brown. I used a heavy nonstick pan (Circulon, love it) and didn't add oil to the mince and used very little oil for the chunks. Set aside. Spoon off the excess oil.

2. Add 1 T oil to the same pan, add the onion and fry until softened. Add the garlic and flour (I didn't add the flour now because I intended to use a pressure cooker) and the beef and remaining ingredients except the mushrooms. Cover and let simmer 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours (30 minutes in presssure cooker) until beef is tender. If there is too much liquid, remove cover to reduce it. However, I found that upon cooking and standing, the liquid will dry up. Pies are best when wet with sauce so do make sure the stew is really slushy. You may have to add more water if not cooking in a pressure cooker. Season.

If using mince, add the mushrooms at the same time as the beef and simmer about 30 minutes.

3. Add the mushrooms and cook another 30 minutes. Taste and season if necessary. If using pressure cooker, stir in the flour and cook 5 minutes. Thicken the stew with the cornflour water. When cool, chill the filling overnight for easier handling and for the flavor to develop.

4. Remove the bay leaves and divide mixture into individual ramekins (to the brim), or you can line the ramekins or greased baking pans with short crust pastry (not potato pastry; too soft) with the pastry overhanging the rims by about 1 cm.

5. Roll pastry tops out between sheets of pastry paper. I found the potato pastry very soft, almost like mashed potatoes, and preferred roll and then press it thin in my hands like making pizza bases. Cover the pie tops with the pastry, trim and mark rim with a fork (go here for great step by step photos).

6. Brush pastry with beaten egg and snip a cross on top to let steam out. Bake at 200 C for 25 to 30 minutes until pastry is golden.

Potato Pastry 
200 gm self-raising flour
200 gm mashed potato, cooled
150 gm salted butter

--Sift flour into a large bowl, rub in the butter, add the mash and mix lightly until just blended. Chill 1/2 hour before using.
--This amount is enough for pot pies only. For enclosed pie (pie with a base and top), you need short crust pastry for the base.

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