The weather has got windy, wet, cold…the leaves are blowing all over the place. I’m not complaining, honestly, because I love this time of year. I love it because it means I get to cook some of my favourite food – stews and casseroles, thick and rich, slowly braised meat, red wine and open fires.
This is a recipe I use for steak and kidney pie, which I got from Gordon Ramsay’s pub food cook book, not quite as pretentious as his usual ‘cheffy’ cook book offerings. Usually topped off with a puff pastry lid, but because Sunday was particularly cold and wet, I needed that extra insulation from a layer of fluffy mash potato, made from Kerrs pinks. Rather than cooking this on the hob I prefer to cook it in a casserole in a low oven, as it yields a much richer result. I like to experiment with the cut of beef I use in a pie like this. Shin of beef is really good, or oxtail is even better – it’s just more of a job to pick the meat from the bone after the initial cooking, but it’s worth it.
Some people may not be a fan of kidney, if not, just leave it out and add a bit more beef, but I love the tang and richness that a small addition of offal brings. It’s only a small amount and for me it really lifts the pie when you taste a small chunk of kidney. In my mind the kidney acts as a seasoning, it leaves a slight gamey taste on your palette that enhances the taste of the beef.
To be honest I’ve served this for people coming round for dinner and I haven’t told them there’s been kidney in the meat, and they’ve all loved it, people can be so squeamish about offal, which is a shame. This country was built on offal, and it’s simply showing the animal the most respect by not wasting any of it. It seems sad that the majority of people have lost touch with how they buy their meat, we should be reminded on a constant basis that meat does not come from a factory, in neat sanitised individually wrapped portions in plastic cartons – it is part of a whole animal, with inner organs that provide great flavours and textures. Get down to your local butcher, be adventurous and don’t be put off by the naysayers!
The addition of stout adds another layer of richness and flavour. I used Whitewater Brewery’s ‘Belfast Black’, but any stout is good.
To drink have another stout or a glass of good red.
800g braising steak cut into bite size chunks
175g veal kidney, sinewy core removed and cut into small cubes
25g plain flour
sea salt and black pepper
250g mushrooms, quartered
2 large onions, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves
300ml beef stock (I used a stock pot)
2 bay leaves
few thyme sprigs
1tbsp tomato puree
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1tbsp brown sauce
flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
5 large potatoes, Kerrs pinks
Sea salt and black pepper
Season the flour with salt and pepper. Toss the steak and kidney in the flour to coat, but keep them separate.
Heat a heavy casserole pot, and add a few knobs of butter and fry the mushrooms with a little seasoning until golden brown. Add the onions, celery and garlic and cook until the onion begins to soften. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl and set aside.
Add a few more knobs of butter to the casserole pot and fry the kidney pieces for about one minute, until evenly browned, remove and set aside. Add a little more butter and brown the steak pieces off in small batches, about five minutes for each batch. Once all the steak has been browned add the rest of the steak, the kidney and vegetables to the pot, pour in the stout and allow to simmer for about five minutes.
Now add the beef stock, bay leaves, thyme, tomato puree and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a simmer, put the lid on the pot and cook slowly in a low oven, about 160 degrees C for about two hours.
After two hours the beef and kidney should be rich, dark and the gravy should be thick and unctuous. Remove from the oven, check the seasoning, take out the bay and thyme, add some brown sauce to taste and the chopped parsley.
Put the steak and kidney filling into a deep oven proof dish. Then make your mash potato topping, which has to be made with at least 50g of butter and hot milk to get that creamy texture.
Cover the top with a layer of mash and get back in the oven for about 45 minutes, until the potato topping starts to go golden brown.
Let the cottage pie rest for 10 minutes before serving, this will make it easier to serve. I like to serve this with some greens, Savoy cabbage is good or some peas.