Beef & Red Wine Pie

I need to start by making sure I don’t take much of the credit for this one, because my boyfriend Mike did most of the work (when it comes to pies and baking bread, he’s definitely the expert, not me)! But it was so delicious that I couldn’t leave it out. It comes from How To Bake, the book published to accompany the second series of the Great British Bake-off (for more details click here).

The filling needed to be made well in advance, in order to let it “mature” (which does sort of make it sound like it’s going off, but after a few hours the mixture was much thicker and gooier.  I also think the flavour of the red wine, which can be quite sharp when you first add it, became deeper and richer over time). The main ingredients were beef fillet, button mushrooms (which I much prefer to ordinary large field mushrooms – the texture is much firmer, so they don’t go soggy in pies and stews, and I think the taste is richer and more buttery), red wine, onions and beef stock, plus a bit of thyme. The pastry was shortcrust, homemade by Mike (of course) and turned out perfectly – crisp, golden and slightly flaky, and just rich enough to accompany the filling without overwhelming it. Apparently the key to this is to handle it as little as possible – use a knife to mix it (so you can cut up the butter), because the heat of your hands makes the fat melt, which can make the pastry oily and less crumbly. This type of pie is known as “double crust” because it has pastry all the way round it, rather than just on top like a lid, so to make sure the pastry on the bottom cooks properly, put a baking sheet in the oven to heat up and then place the pie dish on top of it.

We served this with a generous helping of mashed potato and some garden peas – scrumptious. I’ve always loved mash, but while I was in Paris I picked up some tips to really make it perfect – the first secret is to add a little spoonful of mustard, which doesn’t  overwhelm the flavour of the potato (unless you use too much) but gives it a subtle edge. Secondly, you can add plenty of butter and double cream, which will obviously make it taste incredible – but if you’re hoping to fend off heart problems just a bit longer, skip the cream for a dash of milk and add the butter with restraint. Finally, of course, you need a good sprinkle of salt and some white pepper. If you’ve only got black pepper, or if you have white but never really use it, I’d definitely recommend giving it a try, because the two are completely different. White pepper is still fiery but with a much richer flavour. When I try a recipe and feel like it’s missing a certain something to make it interesting, white pepper is often what I add.

There’s something really satisfying about a homemade pie. Give it a go and feel smug.