Winter pies (winter bliss)

Winter pies (winter bliss)

Beef and guinness pie_squareNow that the weather is colder, it is time for us to nurture ourselves with warm food, packed with nutrients to give us a boost and packed with flavour to give our spirits a lift! Gather around your table with friends and banish winter blues with these simple recipes, some love and lots of laughter. Few things give me more joy than pies. With their delectable, buttery crust perfectly balanced with a rich unctuous filling – you could win men over to almost any cause… give it a try! Store-bought butter puff pastry is fabulously easy to use. I make a wheat free rough puff according to Paul Hollywood’s instructions, but sometimes I like a shortcrust too. It really is up to you here and how much effort you want to invest. You also decide if it only has a piecrust or if you are brave enough to attempt the full casing and risk the feared soggy bottom!

Beef & Guinness

This is a classic! I must confess it is different every time I make it, but that is true for most of my cooking, I hope you are starting to understand my attitude to these matters! Guinness or any other stout works well, or use an ale if you prefer, or if you don’t like cooking with beer – use some red wine! I sometimes find the Guinness leaves a slightly bitter taste, but still enjoy it, so add a spoon of brown sugar if you need to and remember to give this time to cook. This is not fast food!


500g beef cubes (stewing beef or steak if you like)

2Tbl flour

Salt and pepper

Melfort Tallow/ dripping/ butter

2 large onions finely chopped

2 carrots finely diced

250g mushrooms sliced

2 garlic clove minced

A few sprigs of thyme

Bay leaf

200ml Guinness

250ml best quality beef or veg stock (try our Beef broth!)

1 tin chopped tomatoes

Worcestershire sauce

Flat leaf parsley chopped

Pastry of your choice

Egg wash


Put the flour in a plastic bag large enough to comfortably hold the meat. Season the flour well. Now add the meat to the bag and coat in the seasoned flour. Heat a heavy based, wide pan with some tallow/butter. Add the mushrooms with a little salt and fry until they release their liquid and they start turning golden. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion starts to soften. Add the carrot and cook until well coated in all the flavourful oil. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Now add a little more tallow/butter to the pan and a splash of oil if the butter is burning and brown the meat – be sure to not crowd the meat at this point as it will stew then and not fry and brown. This should take about 5-10mins per batch. When all the meat is nicely browned, add any remaining flour, put all the meat and the veggies in the pan and add the Guinness. Let this simmer away until the liquid has reduced by about a third. Now add your chopped tomatoes, stock, bay, thyme and Worcestershire sauce.  Allow to come to a gentle simmer, cover and cook on a low heat for about 2 hours, checking and stirring every now and then. By this time the meat should be lovely and tender, so transfer the veg and meat to your pie dish with a slotted spoon. Remove the thyme and bay. Now reduce the sauce on a medium to high heat until it is a nice thick consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pour over the meat and vegetables, stir in the chopped parsley and allow to cool.

Preheat your oven to 200°. Roll out your pastry and cut a shape slightly bigger than your pie dish. Moisten the rims of the dish with water and line with the off-cut strips of pastry. Now lay your pastry lid into position and press over the pastry rims, trim off excess. Brush with egg wash and lightly sprinkle with some salt. Bake for about 25-35mins, depending on your pastry, but until deep golden brown. Check to make sure your pastry does not burn, cover loosely with foil if you need to.

Enjoy with a bitter leaf salad and vinaigrette.

I have this as is. With lots of red wine. Or really good beer. And although you may be possessed with pie lust, it tastes even better when shared… trust me.


Butternut, leek & mushroom

This is a really delicious vegetarian pie. Everything remains the same in terms of your pastry, it is just an alternative filling. I like to get as much depth of flavour by roasting the butternut along with the garlic, check on it regularly so the garlic doesn’t burn. Although richly gratifying, this is definitely a lighter dish than the meat pie.


500g chopped butternut

500g sliced mushrooms

500g leeks thoroughly rinsed and chopped

4 whole garlic cloves


Olive oil

Generous glass of white wine

250ml best quality vegetable stock

Salt and black pepper


A few sprigs of thyme

Tbl flour, Tbl butter made into a roux

150g crème fraiche

Flat leaf parsley chopped

Pastry of your choice

Egg wash


Preheat oven to 200°. Place butternut and garlic on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper and a touch of paprika, give it a good toss and roast until deeply golden turning nut brown. Remember to watch the garlic and set aside when the cloves are soft to the touch. Heat a nice big pan with some butter, add the mushrooms with a little salt and fry until deeply golden. Add the leeks and gently fry until softening, then take your soft garlic cloves and press out of their skins into the mushroom mix, add wine and allow to reduce by about half. Add thyme and stock and simmer until reduced again by about half. Place your caramelised butternut into your pie dish and transfer the mushrooms and leeks to the dish as well. Remove thyme before adding a little bit of roux. Stir until incorporated and thickening nicely. Add crème fraiche and give it a good stir until glossy and luscious, you may need a spoon of butter to finish it. Taste and adjust seasoning . Pour over vegetables, sir in the parsley and allow to cool. Follow the same procedure with the pastry as before.

I love serving this as vegetarian fare – the magic of the pie is that it always makes a meal feel celebratory. Eat it as is, but with a full bodied white wine… or red if you must!

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