Mmmmm….meat pies! I know lots of folks out there get real worked up about sweet, dessert-type pies. But around here, we’re all about the savoury meat pie. And we pretty much swoon for any type of meat pie whether it be pot pies, pasties or empanadas. We love them all. As if you couldn’t tell. Just look back at my recipe archive and you’ll find quite a few. But I’ve got to let you guys in on a secret…so far these are our favourites! I don’t think I’m supposed to pick a favourite. It’s sort of like parents not having a favourite kid (or should I say not “admitting” to it). Well, just don’t tell the other pies, but this Smithwick’s Beef & Cheddar Pie recipe can do no wrong in our eyes.
Now I will say that these pies do take a bit of planning to get them done properly. You should allow yourself two days. I suppose you could throw them together in just one day. But why would you want to put all that pressure on yourself. With a wee bit of planning ahead, you’ll be much less stressed and have superior tasting pies.
So, here’s the plan of action I recommend. Day one – make the beef and ale filling. First step is browning the beef. Browning not only gives the meat a much more appealing colour, but it also boosts the flavour. This is followed by a long cooking time. You just let that browned beef simmer away with all of those spices and that Smithwick’s Ale broth for a good 3 -4 hours.
Not only will the beef be incredibly tender, but all those flavours will have time to come together and really intensify. If you are in a rush at this time you can move right along to making the crust and assembling the pies, but if you can wait, that beef filling will taste much better after an overnight rest in the refrigerator. And just think, your work is done for the day – on the pie front anyway. You should kick back and have a pint or two.
And as for that crust… well, that was the huge surprize for me in this recipe. Whenever I have made a shortcrust in the past, I have had to cut chilled butter into a flour mixture, add liquid – in my favourite recipe a mixture of vodka and water, form the dough – handling it ever so gingerly – and then let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour, if not overnight. This recipe introduced me to a new way of making pie crust and I must say I am absolutely loving it. It is much less fussy. You just melt butter in a bit of water, add some flour until a dough forms and there you have it. How easy is that! You roll it out and bake it right away. No waiting time. Done in a jiffy! And the crust is just perfect for these pies, buttery and tender yet substantial enough that you can pick a pie up and move it around without it completely crumbling into a heap.
I was able to make eight of these little pies with this recipe, which fed the husband and I for four meals. I served them up with a lovely green salad on the side and we never got tired of them. And once you make them and taste that tender beef in a tangy sauce, spiked with gooey sharp cheddar, all wrapped in a buttery pastry crust, I think you’ll see why they hold the most-favoured pie status with us. Comfort food at its best!
Smithwick’s Beef & Cheddar Pies
recipe adapted from: Mel’s Creative Corner
yield: Eight 4 – 5″ pies
- 2 tbsp olive oil plus more for browning beef
- 2 1/2 lbs. of beef brisket, cut into 2-3 inch pieces ( beef chuck will work fine as well)
- Ground pepper
- Flour for dusting
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 stalks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 cups of Smithwick’s Ale, roughly 12oz bottle (or your favourite craft beer ale can be sub’ed in)
- 1 cup of beef stock
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 sprigs Rosemary
- 6 sprigs of Thyme
- 4 ounces Irish Cheddar, grated
- 3 sticks of butter
- 1 1/3 cups of water
- 5 cups of flour
- Pinch of salt
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- sea salt, for sprinkling over top
Heat oil in large dutch oven, sprinkle beef with salt and pepper, dust with flour and cook, in batches, 3-4 minutes each side and set aside
Heat oil and sauté onions, celery until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook for about 5 minutes.
Add tomato paste, beer, vinegar, beef stock, sugar and spices to pan. Bring to a boil. Add beef back to pan.
Reduce heat to low, cover pan, and cook for 3 -4 hours or until tender.
Remove beef to shred and then return to pan.
For pastry and pie assembly:
Place butter and water into a sauce pan over high heat and bring to a boil
Remove from heat, stir in flour and salt until smooth dough forms. Knead until smooth and elastic.
Roll out pastry dough (roughly ¼ inch thick) and line your pie pans, make sure you save enough dough for later to cover the pies. Divide beef among the dishes. Top with grated cheddar.
Roll out remaining dough to cover pies. Make sure to adhere the pie crust together by pressing a fork along the side of the pie dish.
Cut a small slit on the top of the pies
Brush the top of the pies with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt.
Bake at 400°F for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.