It’s the 1st of August. How is it the 1st of August already? I say it every year and every year I feel like it’s going faster and faster. I sometimes feel overwhelmed at how quickly the years seem to be flying past me. When I was in school I was SO excited when the year’s would fly past because it would mean our December holidays were upon us, but now, I don’t know how I’m going to get everything done I still need to get done this year. But then, this is how I always feel and what doesn’t get done this year, always seems to get done the next year. It is frightening to think that my babies are turning 3 soon. Three! It feels like yesterday when I was lying on the bed watching them play in my tummy.
Anyway, on to the food. As my beautiful hometown, Pretoria, starts warming up during the day and the smell of Jasmine starts filling the air, I know my favourite season, Spring, is just around the corner. There are a lot of things that make me so happy that I have a permanent smile plastered on my face and my toes curl from utter joy, but Spring has to be pretty much at the top of that list. I love the warm days, cool evenings and watching the trees put on their bright green adornments. It means the season of braai-ing (barbecuing), salads and swimming is almost here.
But I still need comfort food every now and then and before my second favourite season, Winter, goes away for a while, I need to soak up as much comfort food as I can. After curries, warm pies are my absolute favourite Winter food and these pot pies are sheer perfection. The steak and mushroom stew is rich, meaty and flavourful. If you don’t want to use stewing steak (or chuck steak), you can use beef shin, oxtail or any other stewing beef you happen to have around. Just make sure you remove any bones before putting the mixture into the pie. Nothing worse than munching through a pie only to almost break your tooth on a bone half way through.
These pies don’t have pastry at the bottom (hence the name: Pot pie) but if you, like me, can never have enough pastry, feel free to put more pastry at the bottom of the baking dish. You can also make mini-pies like I did with my Beef Shin Pie. I served our pot pies with steamed vegetables but I think this would go so well with maple glazed carrots or a simple salad as well.
Makes 4-6 pot pies
1.5kg stewing beef (I used chuck steak cut into chunks, bone removed)
1 large onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
250g mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp each dried thyme, dried rosemary and dried oregano (I like the earthiness of the dried herbs)
2 bay leaves
500ml (2 cups) strong beef stock (alternatively add a heaped tbsp bovril to 500ml water)
1 tbsp cornflour mixed with 50ml milk
salt & pepper to taste
1 roll ready-made puff pastry, rolled out slightly
1 egg, beaten
- For the filling, brown the beef in a large pot. Remove and set aside.
- In the same pot, fry the onion, carrots and celery sticks until soft and fragrant (about 10 minutes).
- Add the mushrooms and garlic and fry for 5 minutes before adding the paprika and herbs.
- Pour in the stock and add the browned beef back into the pot. Stir to combine everything and reduce the heat. Cover the pot and allow the stew to simmer gently for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
- When the meat is really tender (when you press a piece with a spoon it should break apart), turn the heat up and pour in the cornflour mixture. Allow the sauce to simmer rapidly and thicken for about 10 minutes.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°c.
- Divide the beef and mushroom filling between 4-6 oven-proof dishes (depending on size).
- Cut the pastry into squares big enough to cover the dishes, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Brush the rim of the dishes with some of the beaten egg then place the pastry on top and pinch the pastry onto the rim.
- Cut 2 slits into each pie to allow the steam to escape and brush with the rest of the beaten egg.
- Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is cooked through and golden brown.
- Remove and serve with vegetables of your choice.