Steak and ale pie

Steak and ale pie

B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself

This is Desperate Dan territory. Making massive pies out of hot water crust pastry is always a good thing to do on a cold day. They’re warming and hearty and they set you up. I’ve been baking this recipe for years; in fact it has been fun to try and work out exactly how I do it for this book, as I’ve been making it on autopilot for so long. If you’re going to have a go at this – and I really hope you do – get the best-quality beef you can afford. Look for a marbled effect on the meat and cut away any gristle; it will really make the difference.


Quantity Ingredient

For the filling

Quantity Ingredient
5 tablespoons plain flour
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1kg aberdeen angus braising beef, chopped
25g salted butter
a little bit vegetable oil
500 ml bottle strong ale, (I use Old Speckled Hen)
3 large red onions, chopped
5 carrots, chopped
500ml strong beef stock, (made with 2 stock cubes)
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
5 bay leaves
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
300g mushrooms, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons lemon juice

For the hot water crust

Quantity Ingredient
250ml water
100g lard
10g table salt
450g plain flour, plus more to dust
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Tool kit

Quantity Ingredient
rolling pin
23 cm springform cake tin
pastry brush


  1. For the filling, put the flour in a bowl and mix it with the sea salt and pepper. Roll the beef in the seasoned flour to coat.
  2. In a large pan, melt the butter with some oil and fry the beef in a few batches over a high heat until well browned. Set the browned beef aside while you fry the rest. Pour one-quarter of the beer into the pan and reduce the heat to low. Swirl the beer around in the pan and scrape the base to release any of the flour and meat juices that have stuck. Pour this into the bowl with the beef.
  3. Pour a little more oil into the empty pan and fry the onions and carrots over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the rest of the beer, the stock, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a simmer and leave to reduce for 1 hour, remembering to stir regularly. Stir in the mushrooms, garlic and lemon juice and cook for another 30 minutes. You may need to add a little water if the filling seems a little dry (use your judgement). Leave to cool completely.
  4. Preheat the oven to 220°C. For the pastry, put the water, lard and salt in a small saucepan and set over a medium heat. Put the flour into a large bowl and, once the water and lard are boiling, pour them over the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon until the dough has come together, then tip out on to a floured work surface and knead for 2–3 minutes. Return to the bowl and lay a tea towel over it to keep the heat in. You need to work quickly now, for if the pastry cools down too much it will be difficult to shape.
  5. Take about two-thirds of the dough and roll out on a floured surface to a circle 28–30 cm in diameter. Roll this on to a rolling pin and lay inside a 23 cm springform cake tin. Use your fingers to mould the pastry into the tin, making sure you work it into the corners. Allow the excess to flop over the edge (this will help prevent the pastry from falling into the tin). Plug any holes with more pastry and ladle in the cold filling, making sure not to slop any down the sides of the pastry.
  6. Brush the inner exposed rim of the pastry with plenty of beaten egg, then roll out the remaining pastry on a floured surface to a circle of around 28 cm in diameter. Roll this on to the rolling pin and lay out on the pie. Use your fingers to work the pie top into position, making a good seal between the two layers of pastry. Use two fingers and a thumb to crimp the pastry closed, then brush liberally with beaten egg (reserve the remaining egg). Slash three holes in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes, then release the springform sides – the pastry will be cooked enough to hold its shape now – brush the sides of the pie with more egg and return to the oven for a final 20 minutes until the pie is a rich brown colour. If the top begins to brown too much, cover it with a layer of foil. Serve hot with roast potatoes and peas.


  • This recipe has a level 2 (intermediate) difficulty.


  • I could eat pie every day with no complaints whatsoever. This recipe is delicious and a good excuse to sneak some good ale into the house. The pie is relatively easy to scale up or down depending on what size tins you have, as you can make as much or as little pastry as you like. If I have a bit left over, I usually knock up a hand-raised pie. Make chicken and mushroom pie in the same way, but roast the chicken first and use dried wild mushrooms, as they offer a really intense flavour. The main advice I would give is to keep practising and make loads of pies. They’re such a good dinner and really worth the effort. You can get some really interesting-shaped pie tins, too, so have fun and experiment.
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