Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Steak and Kidney Pie

In Medieval England the outer pastry shell of a pie was devised as a mode of transporting meat and veggies on long journeys, serving as a container, holding the filling together and protecting it from air, water and moisture. Somewhere along the line, a hungry traveller must have sampled a bit of pastry only to be pleasantly surprised.

A beloved British favourite, and a sensitive topic in terms of what constitutes the perfect pie: the pastry must be flaky, buttery and substantial enough, the kind and amount of filling as well as the dimensions are all critical, but most important seems to be the ratio of pastry to filling that deem a pie, fit be called a pie! Britain's online community seems to be divided in defining a ‘real’ pie, majority argue it must have four sides of pastry - base, sides and lid, while others are fine with just a pastry lid.

What cannot be debated is this traditional English comfort food is readily available in cafés and pre-packaged in supermarkets across Britain as well as Australia. Finding a pie without preservatives and delicious flaky pastry that yields a generous filling of piping hot steak and kidney is a rarity today. While this recipe requires ardourus preparation, in the end its perfection is unparalleled.

As a child, I wasn’t a fussy eater. Brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli were easily some of my favourite greens and I was a natural carnivore! There were few things I refused to eat, however kidney and liver were two of my childhood nemeses that simply grossed me out, the overwhelming metallic aftertaste didn’t help matters either. I remember many nights where I spent hours at the dinner table with a plate of kidney or liver starring up at me. As a grown woman empowered to make my own decisions, the most important being the ability to opt out of wearing matching outfits to my younger sister as well as stay a safe mile away from steak and kidney, ironically I have made it a mission to experiment and embrace all kinds of foods, including my childhood nightmare.

While the most common polled side with steak and kidney pie is creamed or mashed potatoes, I preferred something lighter and healthy aka, seasoned, lightly grilled, sliced snake beans and vine ripened, quartered cherry tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil.

Preparation time 1-2 hours
Cooking time 1 to 2 hours
Ingredients: 225 g lamb's kidneys; 700 g chuck steak; 1 tbsp vegetable oil; knob of butter; 2 onions, chopped roughly; 2 tbsp plain flour; 2 bay leaves; 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only; 570 ml beef stock; 4 field mushrooms, sliced thickly; 1 tsp tomato purée; 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce; 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley; salt and feshly ground black pepper
For the pastry: 175 butter; 225 g plain flour; 8-9 tbsp water; 1 beaten egg, to glaze
Method: Halve the kidneys and cut out the tubes. Rinse in cold water and peel off the skins. Cut in small pieces. Trim and cut the steak in cubes. Heat oil and butter in a large pan, then fry the onions for 3-4 minutes, stirring. Fry the meat for 2-3 minutes until it loses its pink colour. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add the herbs and stock. Stir until thickened and coming to the boil. Add mushrooms and purée, lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 1½ hours until, the meat is tender.
To make the pastry, wrap the butter in foil and freeze for 45 minutes. Mix the flour with ¼ tsp of salt. Holding the frozen butter in foil, dip it in the flour and grate coarsely back into the bowl, peel the foil back so it does not get grated. Keep dipping it in the flour as you grate. Mix in the butter with a knife until evenly coated with flour. Stir in the water to form a dough. Gently form into a ball. Wrap in plastic film and chill for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. When the meat is cooked, remove bay leaves, season with salt, pepper and mushroom seasoning (or Worcestershire sauce), then cool slightly. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to 5mm/¼in thick and 2.5cm/1in wider than a 1.2 Litre/2 pint pie dish (I used ramekins to create individual pies). Cut out the lid so it is slightly bigger than the dish. Cut a strip of pastry the width of the rim. Stir the parsley in to the meat and transfer to the dish. Brush the rim with egg, lay pastry strip on top and seal. Brush with egg and put lid on top. Seal the edges, knock them up with the back of a knife. Flute the edge. Cut a slit in the lid, brush with the egg (but not the edges or they won't rise). Bake for 20 minutes, then brush with egg again. Bake for 10 minutes until the pastry is golden.

1 comment:

Cari said...

Wow!!!!!! Impressive!!!!