To make a steak pie for four people, you will need:
- 500g porterhouse beef steak
- 1 large onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 200ml dry red wine
- 200ml beef or chicken stock
- 30ml brandy
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 carrot
- 12 small mushrooms
- 100g bacon
- A couple of sprigs each of thyme, rosemary, sage and parsely
Pies are mysterious. There’s something secretive, even sneaky, about the way the contents are hidden. Before we get going, let me deal with the shock and horror of porterhouse. “In a pie?” I hear you ask. “Are you mad? Why not use tough, stringy soup meat like most industrial pie makers?”
The answer is simple. Meat is the main ingredient, so it’s worth it to get the best you can afford – in the pie, on the braai or in any other dish. Let’s begin by dicing the steak. Don’t cut the cubes too small – 12mm to 15mm is what we’re looking for. This size creates a juicy mini-steak, instead of something on the way to bolognaise. Crush, peel and mince the garlic. Peel and thinly slice the onion.
Pour a little olive oil into a heavy-based frying pan; bring up to a medium heat and sweat the onions and garlic until the onions are soft and translucent. Stir from time to time. With a slotted spoon, remove the garlic and onion and reserve them under cover. Into the hot and flavoursome oil, tip the diced steak and stir-fry the cubes for as little time as it takes to brown them on all sides. Remove and reserve under cover in the same bowl as the onions and garlic.
Clean and cut the carrots into matchsticks. Quarter the mushrooms. Chop the bacon. Add these to the now exceptionally well-flavoured oil and let them sweat for a few minutes. Return the meat, onions and garlic to the pan with the bacon, mushrooms and carrot, and give them all an exuberant stir. Pour in the wine, stock and brandy. Chuck in the fresh herbs. Use the traditional meat-associated ones such as those on the list, or feel free to experiment. (We pause for a Zen moment: sometimes a single herb is sufficient, especially when only one accent is required.)
Let this fragrant collection bubble away for 10 minutes or so, then thicken the liquid with a small quantity of Maizena. Now for the pastry. You can make your own, but no one will know if you forage for the stuff in the freezer of your local supermarket. Follow the instructions on the packet and line a pie dish with pastry. Pour in the porterhouse event you’ve prepared, fit a pastry lid to complete the pie, puncture it and bake it in a preheated oven at 180°C until the pastry is deep and crisp and even. And golden, too.
Tuck in. Rather an improvement on the mass-produced pie, don’t you think?