The Ultimate Steak & Ale Pie

A classic, the Ultimate Steak & Ale Pie, with tender meat, a rich filling and crisp, flaky shortcrust pastry is something I’ve been trying to achieve for a couple of years now. First I was never happy with the filling, and then there is the whole I used to be heavily pastry-phobic thing. Before and even for a bit after pastry school when I realised that as a work from home recipe developer I don’t have to make pastry if I don’t want to, and no one will see me do it anyway. It is not like I’ve not just used my Mum’s recipe in my own recipes for jobs before. It turns out no longer caring has made me a better pastry maker.

Anyway, I knew I had a solution to this pie conundrum sitting on by bookshelf all along. I’d seen a recipe for the ultimate steak and ale pie in the September 2019 edition of BBC Good Food magazine, complete with a mustard pastry crust and kept telling myself I needed to make it, but did not actually get around to it until September 2021. This is almost that pie, with my own changes and additions. The point is, it was one of their recipes at the back which teaches you how to take every element of a big cooking project to the next level, and it taught me everywhere I was going wrong.

I posted I was making that pie on Instagram and a few people came back to me to say they’d cut out and kept it too, and that it was their go-to. The recipe is obviously a keeper, and this is just my version, adapted to suit us, our tastes, to fit my pie tin (which is the same pie tin my parents use – my Dad took one look at it and asked me for the recipe) and to overall be easy to follow, something I always try to write into recipes I’ve adapted, rather than written from scratch.

Aside from adjusting the measurements to fit my tin (I needed 1/2 the filling and 2/3 of the pastry, it turns out) my biggest change was switching out the beef I use. The original recipe called for beef shin, which yes is something I’ve been forking out for working on a recipe for beef shin ragu, but for a pie I wanted to make things a bit more accessible and use stewing steak.

As part of my ongoing mission to gradually break up with supermarket meat (or at least meat sold in a supermarket that is not traceable and is mass produced) Helen Browning’s Organic sent me a delivery of beef to try which I’ve found, flavour-wise, makes all the difference in this pie. Look out for her products on Ocado, in Sainsbury’s and on Farmdrop as well as on their own website – run by the head of the Soil Association all their organic meat is high welfare and has an emphasis on the environment and sustainability in its production – while still having the happy convenience of being available where you usually shop. Supporting British agriculture is a plus, too.

So, use good beef in this pie. It does not matter if it is the fanciest cut (hello beef shin) as long as it is good quality, tasty beef.

Do I have to make my own shortcrust pastry?

The first time you make this pie, I wholeheartedly recommend you make this pastry: it is light, flaky and delicious, and a lot more forgiving than a lot of other shortcrust pastries I’ve tried. However, you can instead buy a block and use that, or I’d recommend using a block of puff pastry instead, which is what I’ll be doing in future now I’ve nailed this recipe. I adore the shortcrust crust, but with just the two of us and this pie serving 4-6, puff pastry just reheats a lot better for leftovers, and it will turn this pie from a project to a recipe I can make the filling ahead and then serve it up for weeknight dinner.

If you want to use puff pastry, simply use a whole egg rather than just the yolk to glaze the pie and bake it for 25 minutes until golden, sitting on a baking tray to avoid a soggy bottom.

Can I make the pie filling ahead?

Yes! It is actually best for your pastry – shortcrust or puff – to assemble the pie using totally cold filling, so feel free to make it up to two days in advance and keep it in the fridge. It will actually taste better if you do this, but as it is a delicious pie filling anyway, I doubt you have the patience for this – I certainly don’t!

What size pie dish do you use?

I use a metal pie dish that is 24cm in diameter (9 1/2 inches) and only 2cm (1 inch) deep like this one. This will also fit my Leftover Roast Chicken Pie.

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The Ultimate Steak & Ale Pie

  • Author: Rachel Phipps
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cooling Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 46 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: British

Description

This is the Ultimate Steak & Ale Pie recipe, with a mustard flavoured shortcrust pastry crust and a rich beef, mushroom and ale filling. You’ll also get a jug of gravy to serve with this classic British pie, too!


Ingredients

Scale

For the Pie Filling

  • light oil
  • 400500g (14-18 oz) diced beef
  • freshly ground sea salt & black pepper
  • 1 brown onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 50g (2 oz) smoked bacon lardons
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 tbsp plain (all purpose) flour
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato puree 
  • 200ml (1 scant cup) ale (see note)
  • 1/2 tsp malt vinegar
  • 300ml (1 1/4 cup) beef stock made with 1 stock cube
  • 1/2 tsp miso paste
  • 120g (4 1/4 oz) chestnut button mushrooms

For the Shortcrust Pastry

  • 470g (1 lb) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp dried mustard powder (optional)
  • 100g (3 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, fridge cold, plus a little extra for greasing
  • 100g (3 1/2 oz) lard, fridge cold
  • freshly ground sea salt
  • 5 tbsp ice water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • flaky sea salt

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 140 degrees (280 farenheit).
  2. Heat 1/2 tbsp of oil in a large, lidded casserole dish set over a high heat. Season the beef well and brown all over, working in two batches, making sure not to burn the brown patches that will be forming on the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, peel and roughly chop the onion and the carrots. Add them to the pan along with the lardons, bay leaf, thyme, and another few grinds of salt. Turn the heat down the medium and cook until the onions are just soft and starting to turn golden.
  4. Stir in the flour until no white patches remain, followed by the tomato puree. Cook until the paste has turned a dark, brick red.
  5. Add the ale and allow it to bubble away, thickening in the pan and using the wooden spoon to scrape all the browned bits off the bottom of the dish. Add the malt vinegar.
  6. Make up the beef stock and whisk in the miso paste. Stir into the pot along with the cooked beef and the beef resting juices and bring everything to the boil. Clap on the lid and transfer to the oven to cook for 2 hours until the meat is tender.
  7. Wipe the mushrooms clean and quarter them. Heat a splash of oil in another saucepan set over a high heat and sauté the mushrooms with a generous amount of salt and pepper until cooked through and slightly browned. Set aside.
  8. To make the pastry, combine the flour, mustard powder, and both the unsalted butter and the lard – cut into small cubes – and a generous few grinds of salt in the bowl of a large food processor. Blitz into even crumbs. 
  9. Leaving the food processor running, gradually add the water, a tablespoon at a time until the pastry comes together into a ball. If your food processor is as bad as mine, it will just stop spinning and you’ll need to turn the mixture out and bring it together into a ball by hand, but most of the work will still have been done for you.
  10. Gently knead the pastry into a smooth ball (but try not to overwork it as this will make the pastry tough!) and press it down into an oval. Wrap in kitchen wrap and chill for at least an hour.
  11. Remove the bay leaf and the thyme sprigs from the pie filling and stir in the mushrooms. Using a ladle, a slotted spoon and a fair bit of patience (I promise you it will be worth it!) remove approximately half the cooking liquid from the beef and set aside so you have a nice thick, rich pie filling. Season to taste and allow to cool a little.
  12. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees (390 farenheit). To assemble the pie, generously grease the pie dish with butter. Flour a clean surface and unwrap the pastry, cutting it into two slightly uneven halves.
  13. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the larger of these two halves so that it is just larger than the pie tin. To get an even circle, turn the pastry as you work, carefully pressing together any cracks that form.
  14. Carefully slide the rolling pin under the pastry sheet, and use it to lift it onto the tin. Gently push the pastry down into the grooves and, raiding the pastry up to head height with one end, use a sharp knife to slice the pastry away from the sides of the pie tin angling the blade away from the pie with the other. Fill the base with the cooled pie filling.
  15. Repeat the process with the other piece of pastry to make a lid. Beat the egg yolk together with a splash of cold water and brush the edge of the pastry case with it before lifting on the lid. Gently press down on the edges to seal them before cutting the edges off the pastry case using the same raising and slicing method.
  16. Create ‘V’ with your two four fingers and use it to drag a pastry scallop around the edge using your thumb as the guide in the middle, before brushing the top of the pie with more egg yolk wash. If you wish to use any pastry scraps to decorate the pie, now is the time to shape them, place them, and brush them again with egg wash. Cut a small incision in the middle of the pie to allow steam to escape.
  17. Bake the pie for 20 minutes before removing from the oven, brushing with the remaining egg wash and sprinkling with a little flaky sea salt. Return to the oven for a further 20 minutes until burnished and golden.
  18. Meanwhile, heat the remaining pie gravy in a small saucepan, adding water until it has reached the desired consistency. 
  19. Leave the pie for 5 minutes to rest before slicing, serving the gravy in a small warmed jug alongside. 

Notes

I’m a proud Kent girl so I used a bottle of Spitfire for this, but any good flavoured, traditional British ale that is local to you will do!

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