Individual Beef & Guinness Pies with Champ
This Paddy’s Day is a busy one in our house as we’re off to the seaside! So, to keep you going, here’s an old post which ticks the green tinged boxes for today!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day all!!
We don’t do salads in Ireland. Oh, of course they’re available, but we don’t really do them. There’s usually some miserable looking plain lettuce, one meat, half a tomato offering hidden at the bottom of menus added as an afterthought. Cookery books entitled “100 Salad Ideas!” languish on dusty shelves while one-pot, roasting and ‘home-cooking’ tomes fly out the door. When we do, on the annual Irish Sunny Day, order a salad, we add ingredients and side-orders with the enthusiasm of a hungry Sumo wrestler in training.
When you’ve been shivering at your desk all day, got soaked running to the car, sat in traffic burning expensive petrol, only to make it home two hours after the last light of the day disappeared do you want a Caesar salad? Do you heck, it’s straight to the oven for something warm, toasty and hearty.
Our national culinary repertoire is full of these kind of warming meals – casseroles, soups, breads, stews and, the focus of this post, pies. These are the sort of dishes countless Mums and Dads around the world prepare nightly, whether it be as a cheap and filling bite to eat, a comforting family meal, or even just for a taste of their homeland.
It was Mum’s pies that we tucked into after a long day playing camogie in the freezing muck. It was Mum’s pies that we cradled on our laps as she drove them out to Dad in some Godforsaken place to warm his tummy during cold night shifts. It was Mum’s pies that we defrosted after school as she nursed our very premature little brother in hospital for three months. Pies to me are comfort, warmth, and… home.
Pie Filling – Four Individual Pies
- 600g beef (I used sirloin, but round will do fine)
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed + 1 onion, diced + 2 carrots, sliced + 1 cup button mushrooms, quartered
- 500ml (1 can) Guinness + ½ pint beef stock + 1 dash Worcester sauce + ½ tsp tomato paste + half cup plain flour + 2 small knobs of butter
- 1 sprig thyme + 1 tsp black pepper + 1 tsp parsley (fresh if possible)
- 6 good floury potatoes, peeled, washed and halved
- ½ cup milk, ½ cup cream
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 1 big knob of butter
- Pinch salt
1. Prepare pastry first, as it needs to rest in the fridge. Melt the margarine in a large bowl, add the boiling water, and sift in the flour – it’s sloppy, but don’t panic, it’ll quickly turn perfect. Leave it to set in the fridge for at least an hour. (Yes, it really is that easy – my Mum’s recipe!)
2. Allow a generous sprinkle of flour on the table when you’re rolling out the pastry. Roll about half-inch thick circles slightly wider than the bowl you’ll be cooking them in, so that pastry falls over the sides.
3. Heat first knob of butter in heavy-bottomed pot and add onions, stirring until they soften. Add garlic, cook for a minute or two, and then remove both from pot. Set aside in a bowl.
4. Add second knob of butter to pot and allow to re-heat. Toss beef in seasoned flour and add to pot in batches, browning off. Bring onions and garlic back into pot, throw in carrots, thyme, black pepper, dash of Worcester sauce and tomato paste, stirring vigorously to coat everything.
5. Pour in full can of Guinness and half a pint of beef stock. Stir well and reduce heat. Put lid on pot and allow to simmer quietly for an hour, until beef is tender and juices reduced.
6. Meanwhile get to work on the champ – this bit is easier, don’t worry. Simply pop the potato halves into a large pot and fill with water until they’re covered. Place lid on top and bring to the boil, testing after about 20 minutes with a fork to see if they’re cooked.
7. When the fork goes cleanly in and out of the potatoes, remove, drain, and place onto kitchen paper to remove any excess moisture. Warm the milk, cream and scallions in a small pot. Mash well with the butter, ensuring all lumps have disappeared and stir in the milk and scallion mix, until the potatoes have a beautiful creamy consistency.
8. Decant pie mixture into oven-proof bowls and layer the circle of pastry on top, patting down to seal the edges. Add little pastry shapes to the top if you can, Mum usually does our initials, because of the week that’s in it, I added shamrocks to mine. Brush well with beaten egg, pierce a small hole to allow steam to escape, and pop in the pre-heated oven for about ten to twenty minutes, until the pastry lid is golden brown. Remove and serve individual pies with serving of champ and a big helping of self-satisfaction watching your family tuck in.
Vegetables: Up the veggie ante and toss in some chopped leek if you can fit it in!
Pastry: Pastry freezes quite well, so it’s handy to make a big batch and throw some in the freezer for next time you want to turn a plain old casserole into a pretty pie.
Time: Yes, I know the above is a time-consuming recipe. All good things come to those…blah de blah…but if you need to cut corners, there are many ways to do so – by using a pressure pot; the pie filling will be done in half the time. When making the pastry, make double and freeze the rest for next time. And for the champ, if you’re really hard pressed, you can buy pre-mashed potatoes in most supermarkets. Easy!
Ps – In a wanton act of arm-chancing I’ve decided to pitch this recipe in for consideration for the Irish Food Bloggers Association / An Bord Bia comp ‘From Plate to Page‘. It’s a chance to represent Ireland amongst food bloggers from around the world, so it’d be HUMONGOUS for a baby blogger like me! Worth a try, eh?