Tender beef in a rich sauce made with beer and bacon, topped with crisp, golden puff pastry – this superb steak, mushroom and ale pie is a perfect autumn warmer.
Cooking time over 2 hours
4–5 tbsp sunflower oil
200g/7oz smoked streaky bacon rashers, cut into 1cm/½in strips, or lardons
2 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
850g/1lb 14oz well-marbled braising steak, trimmed and cut into roughly 2.5cm/1in cubes
500ml/18fl oz bottle real ale
500ml/18fl oz good beef stock
1 tbsp tomato purée
3–4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp cornflour
400g/14oz small chestnut mushrooms, halved or quartered
flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the pastry
plain flour, for dusting
500g/1lb 2oz ready-made puff pastry
beaten egg, to glaze
Step 1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large non-stick frying pan and fry the bacon with the onion, stirring regularly, until pale golden brown. Add the garlic and fry for a minute or two more. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions, garlic and bacon to a large flameproof casserole dish.
Step 2. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the frying pan and fry the meat in two or three batches until well browned all over, adding an extra tablespoon or two of oil if needed. Transfer the beef to the casserole as it is browned.
Step 3. Pour half the beer into the frying pan and bring to the boil, stirring hard to lift all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour this liquid over the beef, then add the remaining beer, stock, tomato purée, thyme leaves and bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then cover and cook in the oven for 1½–2 hours or until the meat is very tender.
Step 4. Mix the cornflour with 2 tablespoons of cold water until smooth and stir into the casserole. Return to the oven for 5 minutes until thickened. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then leave to cool.
Step 5. Increase the oven temperature to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6. Place a pastry funnel in the centre of a 1.2 litre/2 pint pie dish.
Step 6. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and fry the mushrooms over a high heat for about 5 minutes until golden. Stir into the meat mixture and spoon into the pie dish around the funnel.
Step 7. On a well-floured work surface, roll out the pastry until it is large enough to cover the pie dish. Make a small cross in the centre of the pastry for the pie funnel to poke through. Brush the edge of the pie dish with beaten egg. Place the pastry gently over the filling and funnel and press the edges firmly to seal.
Step 8. Trim off any excess pastry with a sharp knife and, if you like, use the pastry trimmings to make shapes to decorate the pie. Brush with beaten egg to glaze. Place the pie dish on a baking sheet and bake for 30–35 minutes until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown.