It’s Pi Day! I love this day. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate March 14th than with delicious, freshly baked pies. Today, my Facebook feed has been covered in all kinds of creative and yummy looking pies that people have baked for this occasion and that makes me happy. Any day that encourages people to celebrate with baked goods is alright by me.
This year for Pi Day, I decided to forego the american sweet pie tradition and instead honor our current country of residence with a classic pub favorite, steak and ale pie! If you’ve never had a steak and ale pie, think chicken pot pie meets the best pot roast you’ve ever had. This pie has a buttery, flaky crust and a fall apart tender pot roast filling that’s been cooked long and slow in beer. In the UK, pies are a savory main course item rather than a sweet treat. There are countless variations on the savory pie including cottage pie, scotch pie, chicken and mushroom pie, and (our favorite) steak and ale pie. My husband and I buy this pie from our favorite little pie shop pretty much every time we go into the center of the city. This is how I make my homemade version:
Start by making the pot roast portion, which starts with melting 2 tbs of butter in a large saucepan with a lid.
Season 1 lb of chuck or rump roast with salt and pepper on both sides.
Place the meat in the pan to sear and then continue to cook for about 4 minutes a side.
While the meat cooks, cut one medium yellow onion into large pieces.
This is the beer I like to use for this pie. It can be found both in Europe and in the states and works really well for any recipe that requires long and slow cooking. Using a light beer won’t give you the kind of flavor you really want in this recipe, and if you use something too dark the beer could turn bitter during cooking process leaving your food with an unpleasant after taste. After much experimentation, I have found that this beer really offers the perfect cooked flavor. I use it in many of my recipes.
Once the meat has been cooked on both sides, add in the onion, beer, and seasonings. Lightly mix everything together and bring the pot to a boil.
Reduce the heat, cover, and allow it to simmer on low for 3 hours or until the meat is fall apart tender.
Once the pot roast is simmering away, start on the pie crust. You can, of course, opt to buy a pre-made crust if you prefer (I do this on a regular basis- no shame!) or you can make one from scratch if you’re feeling extra homemaker-ish.
Making pie crust is very easy and it only requires 4 ingredients. Best of all, a homemade crust is sure to impress your family and friends! If you have the time, I encourage you to give this crust a go!
Start by mixing together salt and flour.
Add in cold, cubed butter.
And cut the butter into the flour. “Cut” is one of those fancy pastry terms that you’ll sometimes see in recipes. If you’re not sure what this means, don’t let that deter you. The process is really very simple. Cutting butter into flour literally means just that. Using knives, you cut up butter into some flour. This is the process that creates a lovely, flaky crust.The trick is to do this without allowing the butter to get too hot and soft. Keeping it cold will keep the crust flaky.
There are several ways to cut the butter into the flour. You can use a pastry cutter (a tool designed for this purpose that makes the job really quick and easy) or you can use two knives as I did today. The two knife method takes a few minutes longer, but it works just as well. If you don’t have a pastry cutter in your kitchen, feel free to follow my example.
To use the two knife method, you move the knives in opposite directions across the bowl, slicing chunks of butter in half as the knives pass each other.
Keep doing this until the flour mixture resembles course crumbs with a few pea sized pieces of butter left. Have patience. This process takes around 5 minutes with the knives, but it’s so worth it.
Next, you’ll add in 5 to 7 tbs of COLD water while mixing to bring the dough together. You don’t want the dough to be sticky, so don’t add all of the water at once. Add it as you go and stop adding it once the dough comes together.
Wrap the dough in saran wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
After 3 hours, check the roast for tenderness. If it’s fall apart tender, remove it and the onions from the pan. Remove the cooking liquid to a separate bowl or measuring cup.
Shred the meat into bite sized pieces using two forks.
In the same saucepan, melt 2 tbs of butter.
Add in 2 tbs of flour and whisk to create a smooth roux.
Whisk the roux while cooking it over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until it is golden in color.
Add in 1.5 cups of the cooking liquid and whisk until the mixture is thick and smooth.
Add the meat mixture back in, taste for seasoning and remove from the heat. Allow the mixture to cool before moving on to the next step.
Flour your counter top really well and lay out the chilled pie dough. Flour the top of the dough.
Roll the dough into a rough square about 1/4 inch thick.
Trim off the edges and cut the dough into 4 pieces.
Move the squares onto a greased baking sheet. Spoon around 1/2 cup of the cooled filling onto 1/2 of each crust square.
Fold over the other half of the dough and seal the edges.
Use a fork to crimp shut the edges. This will ensure that no leakage will happen in the oven.
Using a fork, poke a few holes in the top of the pie.
Mix together a beaten egg and a tsp of water and brush the top of each pie. This will give the pies a great golden color and shine.
Bake the pies at 400 for 20 to 25 minutes or until they are golden and bubbly.
Once the desired doneness is achieved, remove them from the oven and allow them to rest for 5-10 minutes.
Enjoy them on their own or serve them with mashed potatoes and a pint. These pies are meant to be shared and are a great peek into British life. I hope you and your mates tuck into one of these the next time your favorite football team is on the telly!
Happy Eating and Happy Pi Day!
Steak and Ale Pie
Makes 4 individual pies
For the Filling:
- 1 lb beef chuck or rump roast
- 1 medium yellow onion, cut into chunks
- 1 12 oz brown ale
- 1 tbs onion powder
- 1 tbs garlic powder
- 1/2 tbs dried thyme
- 4 tbs butter
- 2 tbs flour
For the Pie Crust:
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup cold butter, cubed
- 5-7 tbs cold water
- 1 egg and 1 tsp water for the egg wash
Melt 2 tbs of butter in a large sauce pan. Season both sides of the meat well with salt and pepper. Brown both sides of the meat for about 4 minutes per side. Add in the onion, ale, and seasonings. Stir everything together and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 hours.
After 3 hours, check that the meat is fall apart tender. If so, remove the meat and onions to a plate and pour the cooking liquid into a separate bowl or measuring cup. Shred the meat into bite sized pieces with two forks.
Into the same saucepan, add 2 tbs of butter and melt. Add in 2 tbs of flour and whisk to create a roux. Cook the roux over medium heat while whisking until it is slightly browned in color (around 3 minutes). Add in 1.5 cups of the cooking liquid and whisk until the mixture is thick and smooth.
Add in the meat and remove from the heat. Allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.
Cut the dough into 4 squares about 6 x 6 inches. Move the dough squares to a greased baking sheet. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the filling onto 1/2 of each of the dough squares. Fold the other half over and seal the edges. Use a fork to crimp the edges and poke a few holes in the top of each pie.
Beat one egg with a tsp of water to create an egg wash and to brush over the top of each pie.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pies are golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.
For the Crust:
Mix together the flour and salt.
Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in the cubed butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Slowly add in the water while stirring. Stop adding water once the mixture comes together to prevent the dough from becoming sticky.
Wrap the dough in saran wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.