-27 with the windchill in Calgary today, not making it feel at all like spring as we approach daylight savings time and spring break. But! We’re taking comfort in the fact that new microbreweries are popping up all over the place, one just a couple blocks from our house, and that lagers, stouts and ales are perfect for simmering with beef to make the ultimate cold-weather comfort food: beer and ale pie under a puff pastry lid. This is what parka season is all about – warming yourself from the inside out.
To make a beef and ale – or Guinness – pie, start by braising the beef with onions, your choice of brew, stock and a pinch or sprig of thyme – I like to add a glug of Worcestershire and a spoonful of tomato paste or puree as well, and a shake of flour to thicken the lot. (A note on browning beef with flour: most recipes call for you to douse the beef chunks in flour before browning, but I find that it then browns the flour rather than the beef itself. My preferred method is to brown the meat, then shake the flour over the pieces and stir them around to coat in the pot. It totally works.)
When I make stews and meat pies I generally the beef first because it needs a long, slow braise – if you add the carrots (and any other veg you want to add) toward the end of the cooking time, they won’t turn to mush. Or if you happen to have some leftover roasted or steamed veg, you could just stir them in at the end, as they’re already cooked. (I switched pots here for a better photo, but you can do it all in one. Enamel-coated cast iron is made for stovetop-to-oven dishes like this.)
I learned the aged white cheddar trick from J.O. – grating a chunk over the filling before topping with the lid is optional, and will disappear visually from the finished pie, but adds a flavour that’s fantastic. You could even do the filling ahead of time, then top it with pastry and bake when you’re ready.
Or top it with mashed potatoes, if you like – but I find it hard to resist an excuse to use frozen puff pastry. (If you want to make your own, you could do a quick rough puff – a streamlined version of the real thing that tastes amazing and looks just as good as the real thing.)
And that’s it – serve it with peas, and mash if you like. How to turn every home into a pub.