It's British Pie Week, apparently. (Well, it would be, wouldn't it? They have a week for fucking everything these days.)
Thing is, this could just be me getting older'n'shit, but I'm convinced that pies aren't as good as they used to be. Ironically, before we ever had British Pie Week, pies were actually tastier. Weren't they? Is it just me?
I enjoy a good pie as much as the next fat cunt, but all too often these days we seem to settle for disappointing fillings and bland, dry pastry. Yes, you can get some fantastic 'gourmet' pies these days, and pork pies designed to be served cold are probably better than they've ever been, but I'm convinced that your standard everyday hot pie used to be better.
Filling preferences seem to be shifting with time too.
|Not a pie but very, very tasty|
I haven't seen any official data, or, ahem, pie charts on the subject, but even the McDonalds Apple 'pie' - a sort of battered, sealed pancake that doesn't qualify as a pie by any sane criterion - may even be the King of the pies these days.
And that symbolises exactly why pies really ain't what they used to be.
Anyway, here's my recipe for British Pie Week. And, being a natural contrarian, it's not even a pie. And yet, probably, it's still more pielike than anything Ronnie Mac has to offer.
|Good old fashioned steak and kidney|
Beef. Ale. Kidney. Onion. All guaranteed to produce a gloriously unctious gravy if cooked for long enough.
Dumplings went out of fashion about the same time as kidney, so I'm bringing them back too, albeit with a unique and modern twist.
Your grandma probably wouldn't have added green tea to her dumplings, but it gives them a lift and complements the more traditional gravy very nicely indeed.
Steak & Kidney with Green tea & Black pepper dumplingsIngredients - serves two rather heartily:
Stewing beef, diced, a little under a lb
|Seasoned meat into the pan|
Onion, one large or two small, roughly chunked
Strong ale, a pint
Beef stock, about 1/4 pint ultra-reduced
Olive oil for cooking
For the dumplings:
Self-raising flour, 6oz
Butter, good quality salted, 2oz
Green tea, brewed and cooled
You may need to trim the white, uriney bits from your kidneys first - if possible ask the butcher to do this because they'll invariably do a better job than you or I. Unless you happen to be a specialist kidney butcher, obviously!
|Great balls of flour (and butter, pepper and tea)|
Once the meat is nicely dusted, heat a little oil in a big pan and brown it for about six or seven minutes, but make sure it's still pink in places.
When it's ready, transfer it to a casserole and mix in your chunks of onion. This might also be a good time to pre-heat the oven to about 125.
Deglaze your pan with the beer and add the stock, along with a generous spoonful of mustard. Give it a good stir and let it simmer for a few minutes until the mustard dissolves into the beery stock. Depending on the quality of your stock it might be necessary to add a bit of seasoning, but most pre-concentrated stocks are already salty enough.
If you're wondering about what sort of beer to use - and you should be - it's calling out for a strongish, malty ale, but nothing as burnt and roasty as a stout or porter. If it's reddish-brown and about 5-6% ABV, you're probably in the right ballpark.
|You could still whack a pie crust on top...|
Sound of harps... three hours later... sound of harps... three hours later...
OK, so probably the trickiest bit of the whole enterprise is making the dumplings, and you are going to get your hands dirty here.
Take a large mixing bowl and add the flour, grinding in plenty of fresh black pepper, then add the butter. Work it with your hands, gradually breaking up the butter and easing in the peppery flour - after a few minutes you should have it reduced to the texture of golden breadcrumbs, but if it seems too dry, add more butter, and if it's too sticky, add flour. Common sense rules.
When it's nice and crumby, almost like crumble topping, it's time to add some green tea, a little at a time, so you can form a nice dumpling dough.
|...but we're dropping in some dumplingy goodness|
Take your casserole out of the oven - the steak and kidney should be looking and smelling rather lovely and heartwarming now - and gently place the dumplings on top, before replacing the lid and putting it back in the oven, perhaps turning the heat up to 150-ish.
The dumplings will take around 45 minutes to gently steam themselves - you can turn them over half-way through, though this isn't critical.
When it's all done, serve with a nice green vegetable, like some crunchy, freshly blanched broccoli, and enjoy the fact that it's not quite a pie.
To drink with this dish? The obvious candidate is a pint of ale, though you could try a cup of green tea to make some sort of eccentric statement.