Beef and Onion Pie

Who doesn’t like a slab of pie, with chunks of beef in a rich, dark gravy? This steak and onion slice is designed to give you maximum flaky pastry pleasure while not compromising on the flavourful filling. Eat it hot or cold, cut into succulent squares. You won’t even need a pie dish.

My grandpa used to make a beef pie with sliced new potatoes under the crust. I loved it when I was a nipper. His was different – shortcrust, un-thickened gravy that was more like beef tea, all cooked in an old Pyrex dish – but I’ve nicked the idea of the potatoes. Double carbs?  Sign me up, although you can leave them out if the idea appals you. The pie will still be good.

This is the latest recipe in my collaboration with Nicola Chapman at Carr Farm, whose Belted Galloway cattle live on the lush grasses of the Waveney Valley on the Norfolk-Suffolk border. I used her shin of beef. If you use chuck steak it will require slightly less cooking, so please adjust the timings accordingly.

Like most pie fillings of this sort it is best made the day before you want to eat. If you don’t have time for this, make sure it’s completely cold before adding it to the pastry.

Beef and Onion Pie

Image of pie and onion pie


Approx 500g shin of beef, trimmed and cut into 3cm/1.5″ dice

2 or 3 tbsp oil (I used cold-pressed rapeseed)

500g red or yellow onions, peeled, halved lengthways and sliced thinly

2 sticks of celery, trimmed, de-stringed and diced small

2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 tsp sugar

2 tbsp plain (all purpose) flour

300ml stout (I used Guinness)

700ml beef stock

2 bay leaves

2 sheets of ready-made puff pastry, preferably all-butter (or make your own rough puff)

About 140g of waxy potatoes, pre-cooked and cooled (optional)

1 egg, beaten with a splash of water, to glaze

Image of beef and onion pie, sliced


Turn the oven to 180C/160 fan/350F/Gas Mark 4.

Heat the oil in a large, oven-proof casserole and brown the beef all over. Remove to a plate.

Add the onions, celery and garlic, sprinkle with salt and 1/2 tsp sugar, stir, put on a lid and cook gently for 10 minutes until wilted. Remove the lid and cook for a further 20 minutes until the onions are soft and caramelised. Stir occasionally and watch they don’t burn towards the end of the cooking time.

Put the meat back in the pan along with any juices on the plate. Stir in the flour and cook off for a minute or two. Add the stout followed by the beef stock, stirring until the sauce has thickened.

Put on a lid and cook in the oven for 2- 2 1/2 hours. Ovens vary, so check after an hour and a half to two hours and add more stock if it’s drying out. Continue to cook until the beef is tender, by which time the sauce should be very thick, dark and rich. If it isn’t, reduce it by simmering on the stove.

While the meat is in the oven, cook the potatoes, if using, until tender. Drain and set aside to cool.

When the meat is done, check the seasoning, fish out the bay leaves, spoon into a bowl and cool. Cover and refrigerate, preferably overnight.

Next day (or once the filling is completely cold) remove the puff pastry and pie filling from the fridge. Give them 20 minutes to come to room temperature and heat the oven to 200C/180 fan/400F/Gas Mark 6.

Lay one sheet of puff pastry on a baking sheet and cover with the filling, leaving a 7.5cm/3″ margin. If you’re using the potatoes, slice them and lay in a single layer over the beef. Brush the margin with water and lay the second sheet of pastry on top. Crimp tightly to prevent any leakage.

Score a criss-cross pattern on top without cutting all the way through the pastry and cut a slit in the centre to let steam escape. Brush with egg wash.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden and the filling is piping hot. If the filling needs more time, cover the pie loosely with kitchen foil to prevent the pastry burning.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. I like it with a crisp green salad and/or coleslaw. Any leftovers are just as good, cold (but not fridge cold), with pickles and chutney on the side. 

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