One of my most abiding memories of childhood is the wonderful smell wafting out of the kitchen on my grandmother’s “baking days”. I remember her so well : apron on, sleeves rolled up, hands covered in flour rolling out pastry, kneading dough or stirring a cake mix.
At the end of the room in the old open fireplace was a gleaming black Bodley stove fired by wood and coal, a massive cast iron piece of equipment, made locally in Devon, with several ovens and a number of hobs, radiating heat through the kitchen, and the rest of the house!
The Bodley stove was a great Victorian invention patented by the wonderfully named William Canute Bodley, an Exeter foundry owner. It was the forerunner of the modern Aga, and every bit as good.
And out of that Bodley, thanks to my grandmother’s efforts, came the most delicious pies : rich, aromatic beef and kidney pies, light and delicious chicken and bacon pies with their creamy sauce, steak puddings oozing rich, dark gravy, and, best of all, the rabbit, bacon and mushroom pies, succulent and full of flavour with shortcrust pastry to make your mouth water!
In modern cuisine we seem to have gone off making pies. Too difficult. Too many calories. Takes too long. But in reality there is nothing as wholesome, tasty and good as a real meat pie to help us all through the last of winter! And British pie week is coming up in a couple of weeks’ time….
To make a steak and mushroom pie for four people, take a kilo of Top Meadow Farm stewing or braising steak, or any cheap cut of beef cut into chunks, dust with flour and sear in a little oil or butter in a pan. When browned lightly place in a casserole dish, with chunks of belly pork or small pieces of bacon. Raise the caramelised juices from the pan with hot water and add to the casserole, topping up generously with beef stock. Lightly fry a chopped, large onion until golden and add to the casserole. Season well with pepper, a little nutmeg or mace, and cook slowly for two hours or so until the meat is tender.
Drain the meat, retaining all the juices, and allow to cool. Slice 4-600gm. mushrooms, mix with the cooked beef and place in a deep pie dish. Check the seasoning of the cooking liquor, adding sea salt if necessary, and pour some carefully onto the meat, ensuring that the gravy level is well below the top of the meat.
Meanwhile roll out your short crust pastry, and cover the top of the pie dish, decorating it as you wish. Glaze by brushing with a little egg. Bake in a moderate oven for thirty to forty minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the filling piping hot. Serve with boiled or baked potatoes, kale or Savoy cabbage and carrots, and the remaining meat juices, as gravy.
Tasty, wholesome and delicious. Just right to set you up to withstand the February storms!