The comforts of home-cooked stodge
My friends had just returned to London from a long trip to China and were in desperate need of some old-fashioned grub.
Instead of popping round to the local pub, I rustled them up a beef and Guinness pie with sides of peas, fries and cauliflower cheese.
OK, it's not haute cuisine, but they came, ate and sat back fully sated, their taste buds fully restored to the comforts of home-cooked stodge.
The key is, of course, the filling. Slowly casseroled beef with chestnut mushrooms, whole shallots, chopped carrots, a jar of pickled walnuts (drained), sprigs of thyme, a big dollop of tomato sauce, a swig of Worcester sauce, garlic and, here's the piece de resistance, a generous helping of cranberry jelly, i.e. half a jar.
This gives the whole thing a fruity, sweetish edge. All slowly casseroled in a pint of Guinness.
I flour and quickly fry the diced beef just like my Mum used to for her stews. I guess this is now considered redundant but (a) it's fun (b) I love de-glazing all the goo and sticky bits and (c) the flour helps thicken the juices.
Casserole well in advance, even the day before, then let it settle before ladling it into the puff pastry and baking for about 40mins.
Double cooking the meat makes it lovely and tender and the flavours simply ooze out. Consume with glass of red and finish up with a peaty Islay whisky ... well, we did anyway.