Sunday, 21 January 2018

Homemade Pie, Mash and Mushy Peas

Homemade beef and vegetable pie with mashed potatoes and mushy peas

Pie, mash and mushy peas is a classic British dish, often associated with the sadly now largely gone pie and mash houses of the East End of London. The concept varies slightly depending upon location and interpretation and in the previously referred to retail outlets, the pie and mash was (and in a small few places still is) often served with jellied eels and liquor. The pie in this instance was filled with shin beef and vegetable stew which must be firstly prepared and then left to cool before the pie can be assembled. It may be a good idea therefore to plan this dish in advance, make the stew one night, leave it to cool and refrigerate it overnight in preparation for making and serving the pie the following evening for dinner.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

1/2 pound (225g) shin beef
2 tablespoons vegetable or sunflower oil
Salt and black pepper
1 medium carrot
1 stick of celery
1/2 medium white onion
1 pint fresh beef stock
10 ounces (250g) puff pastry
Flour for rolling pastry
1 large egg
3 medium to large baking potatoes
14 ounce (400g) can of mushy peas*
Malt vinegar

*You can of course make the mushy peas yourself but I personally find steeping the dried peas and the whole process more trouble than it is generally worth and almost always go for the canned option

Diced shin beef ready for browning


It may be that you buy your beef already diced. If not, you want to chop it to around three-quarter inch (2cm) chunks. Pour the vegetable oil in to a large saucepan, add the beef and season with salt and pepper. Put the pan on to a medium heat and brown/seal the beef, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon. This should take two to three minutes.

Vegetables are added to browned beef

Scrub, top, tail and dice moderately finely dice the carrot. Wash the celery stick, trim and chop to pieces around the same size as the carrot. Peel the onion half and slice fairly thinly. Add the prepared vegetables to the brown beef and stir well before pouring in the beef stock. Turn the heat up until the stock reaches a simmer then cover the pan and adjust the heat to achieve as gentle a simmer as possible for two to two and a half hours until the beef is super tender. Do check it every so often just to ensure the liquid level is not getting too low. In the unlikely event this should happen, simply add a little boiling water from your kettle.

Beef stew must be left to cool

When the beef stew is ready, it is imperative it be allowed to cool completely before the pies are assembled. If the stew is hot - or even warm - when it is added to the assembly, it will soak in to the pastry and the pies will collapse.
One third of the pastry is used to make the pie lid

Put your oven on to preheat to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.

The pies should be assembled one at a time, using 5 ounces (125g) pastry in each instance. Lay the first portion of pastry on a chopping board and cut one third of it to roll the lid with the remaining two-thirds to be used to form the base/body of the pie.

Pie dish is used as template for cutting lid

The small ceramic dishes used for assembling these pies are about 3 inches (7.5cm) in diameter and one inch (2.5cm) deep. It is important that you measure the diameter and depth as it will determine the size of the template required for cutting the pastry circle that forms the main body of each pie.

Start by rolling out the lid portion of pastry on a floured board to an approximate square just slightly larger than the upper diameter of the pie dish. The dish can then be used as a template to cut the lid for the pie.

Suitable larger utensil is used to cut pie base and body

You may have to rake through your kitchen cupboards/closets to find a suitable template for cutting the body portion of each pie. You want a circular item around one inch (2.5cm) larger in diameter than the sum of the diameter plus twice the depth of the pie dish.

Roll out the body portion of the pastry to a square just larger than the template you will be using then cut the circle from the pastry in the same way as before.

Pastry discs ready for assembling pie

The inside of the pie dishes require to be greased with some butter. This is to ensure the pies can easily be removed when cooked.

Pie body pastry disc is fitted in to pie dish

The larger circle should be placed in the pie dish and carefully pressed in place to ensure it touches the edges of the dish all round. There should be a slight, regular overhang all the way around.

Cooled beef stew filling is spooned in to pie dish

Spoon enough of the cooled stew in to the dish to almost but not quite reach the brim. Do be sure to include a little gravy to keep the meat moist but not so much that the pastry will become soggy. A tablespoon or so per pie is about right.

Lid is fitted on to pie and glazed with beaten egg

Lay the lid on the pie, tuck it in carefully around the edges and glaze with beaten egg.

Crimped and glazed pie is ready for the oven

Carefully fold over and crimp the pie edges around the perimeter of the lid. Glaze with more beaten egg and cut a small steam vent in the centre with the tip of a sharp knife. Place the pies on a baking tray and in to the oven for thirty to thirty-five minutes until the pastry is beautifully golden.

When the pies are around half way through their cooking time, peel the potatoes and chop to around one and a half inch (4cm) chunks. Do not cut them too small or they will absorb too much water and you will have soggy mash. Place in a large pot of cold water, season with salt and bring to a simmer for twenty to twenty-five minutes until just softened.

Mushy peas are re-heated in a small saucepan

When the pies are ready, take them from the oven and set them aside (still in the dishes) to rest while you finish the preparation of the mash and mushy peas.

Drain the potatoes when they are softened through a colander at your sink and leave them to steam off for a few minutes. This gets rid of the excess moisture and is a further means of preventing soggy mash.

Pour the mushy peas in to a saucepan and gently heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. They will only take a few minutes. Season with black pepper and malt vinegar.

Potatoes are hand mashed with butter

Put the potatoes back in to the empty pot and add some butter. Mash with a hand masher.

Mash and mushy peas are plated

Divide the mash and the mushy peas between two serving plates. Carefully loosen the pies around the edges with a blunt edged knife before tipping them carefully out of the dishes in to your hand (protected by a cloth). Lay a pie on each plate and serve immediately.

Pie is plated with mash and mushy peas

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