This winter warming dish makes a comforting addition to the traditional Christmas fayre – and is a cost-effective way to feed hungry extra visitors when they come to stay!
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: Filling – 3.5-4 hours (plus cooling time) Pie – 45 minutes
Lard or dripping (you can use sunflower oil at a push)
700g boneless beef shin – cut into mouth size chunks
25g plain flour, seasoned
200g smoked bacon (diced) or lardons
225g whole baby onions
400ml sweet dark brown ale (Theakston’s Old Peculier works well if your ale knowledge is not strong!)
400ml beef stock
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp cocoa or 1-2 squares of very dark (80%+) chocolate
For the pastry:
400g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mustard powder (optional)
½ tsp salt
A little milk or egg, to glaze
Preheat the oven to 170C or 150C fan / gas mark 3.
Place the seasoned flour into a large plastic bag. Add the beef in small batches and shake thoroughly to coat evenly. Reserve the floured pieces to a plate. Heat a generous chunk of lard or dripping in a large frying pan over a high heat. Brown the beef pieces in small batches, transferring them to an ovenproof casserole dish as you go.
Reduce the heat a little and add the chopped bacon or lardons and the onions to the pan. Cook until the bacon fat begins to render, and the onions are brown on all sides, then add into the casserole.
Pour a small amount of the beer into the pan and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom to incorporate all the flavoured meat scraps and flour. Pour this into the casserole too, then pour in the rest of the ale, and add the stock, herbs, sugar, vinegar, and cocoa (or chocolate squares) and bring to a simmer.
Cover, and place into the oven for about 2 hours, then uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 1½ -2 hours (depends on your oven), until the meat is tender. Set on one side to cool then transfer to a pie dish.
To make the pastry, place the flour, baking powder and mustard powder in a bowl with ½ tsp salt. Stir in the suet, and then add just enough iced water to bring it together into a dough. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for an hour or so.
Preheat the oven to 190C / 170C (fan) / Gas mark 5. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to about 1cm thick.
Place over the filled pie dish, sealing the edges tightly. Cut vent slits to allow the steam to escape. Brush with beaten egg or milk and then bake for 45-50 minutes until golden.