I'm trying to decide if steak and onion pie is better when the weather is cold and sharp . . . or cold and damp.
No matter: if it is December in any northerly climate, this is the most satisfying dinner imaginable. My father's birthday is December 8 and it has long been our family tradition to make it on that occasion. When I was chatting to my mother this week I mentioned that I was making the pie . . . and she laughed and said that she had made one, too. It was always great in Texas, but I think that it may be even better in England.
Of course meat pies are an English standard -- pub grub, and available year-round. But for me, this pie is a seasonal pleasure. My mother got it from an old cookbook, with a brown cloth cover -- and I can still picture the 50s era font. (I'm sure that some long-ago farmer's wife patented the special blend of spices.) It came from an earlier American era, when people had lots of outdoor chores to do. But even if your only exposure to frigid air is running from the car to the house, this comforting dish is just what you need this winter.
Steak and Onion Pie
Ingredients for filling:
one large onion, sliced into thin rounds
2 lbs (or 1 kg) of round steak (or other stew meat) cut into chunks
4 ounces flour
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
40 ounces (or two English pints) of boiling water
4 medium-sized floury potatoes, cut into chunks
Method for filling:
Saute the onion in a tablespoon of vegetable oil (canola or similar). When it is translucent, remove from the pan and reserve for later.
Mix together the flour and seasonings, and dredge the meat in the mixture. (I usually toss them in a ziploc bag.) Then, in three or four smallish batches, brown the meat strips in hot oil. You will need to add about a tablespoon of oil for each batch of meat.
I tend to brown the meat in a skillet, and then remove it to a large saucepan for the next step. After browning all of the meat, add the boiling water and left-over seasoned flour, stir well, and then cover and simmer until the meat is tender (approximately an hour). Then add the potatoes and simmer for 20-30 minutes more. (The potatoes should be starting to soften.)
Pour this mixture into a greased casserole. (I use an oval corning ware dish, approximately 9 x 13 inches, which leaves enough meat-and-potato mixture to make up two individual pies for a later meal. )
Place the cooked onions on the top, and let cool.
Then cover with pie crust -- not forgetting to punch some steam holes in the crust.
Bake for 30 minutes in a very hot oven -- 450F/220 C.
Simple Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups of flour (approximately 10 ounces)
4 ounces vegetable shortening or lard
1 teaspoon salt
iced water -- a few tablespoons
You can easily double this recipe, and I often do.
Cut the shortening into the flour and salt. Add just enough ice water to bind. When it comes together, form into a ball and chill for at least half an hour. If you roll it out between two sheets of waxed or parchment paper, you can just lift it -- and flip it -- straight onto the pie. Make sure the filling has cooled though, or it will start melting the pastry.
You can prepare the filling beforehand, and keep the covered casserole in the refrigerator for 24 hours or so. When you are ready to eat, add the pie crust and start preheating your oven. This pie isn't difficult to make, but it does take a while. It's not a dinner that you want to start making after 7 pm. Labor of love, though . . . definitely.
Yesterday, when my ravenous teenaged daughter came looking for a snack, she demanded the left-over steak and onion pie. Even though our kitchen counter is loaded up with homemade cookies and candies at the moment, when it is dark and wet and you've had a long day there is nothing better than some warmed-up (and warming) meat pie.