Monday, 26 December 2011

Beef and Red Wine Pie Filling

I was going to make a croquembouche for dessert today.  I did my research, found my recipe, tweeted the lovely @Wotchers (Mary-Ann from the Great British Bake Off) for advice.  I then got given the GBBO book for Christmas and decided I'd use the recipe in there to create my masterpiece.

Dinner tonight was going to be a proper dinner party.  But I'd deluded myself that because we have guests, my husband might actually attempt to eat what was in front of him without being all whiney like a spoilt toddler.  School-girl error.  I picked something that was relatively low cost, not poultry based and not creamy as I wanted to do the choux buns for pudding.

Ingredients
I've mentioned before that he will generally only eat chicken and sausages.  Every so often, he'll eat a beefburger or if he's feeling radical, a lamb kebab (the mush-on-a-stick ones that you get from the supermarket in barbecue season).  Why on earth I thought I might be able to change this, I don't know.  And now having thrown my toys out of the pram and flounced upstairs to spill my woes on my blog, I'm feeling rather silly.  We've been together nearly eight years so I should know by now that he will do as he pleases.

We're trying to economise as he is running his own business and we've gone from being a two salary, no child household to a one salary household with child and astronomical business expenses to boot.  He recently (on my birthday!) visited a friend of his who lives in a smug, self-satisfied world of thrift.  They got to discussing how much each household spends on their weekly shop.  The friend - £60 for two adults and one child, allegedly including beer for three nights of the week.  Us - around £120.

I know a lot of people who would throw their hands up in horror at my weekly spend.  We get through a lot of fruit.  I include nappies in that figure and all the other household cleaning stuff (why do I spend so much on that and still live in a dump of a house??).  The child eats an awful lot of expensive fruit - I can't believe how expensive grapes are these days.  But a lot of it is squandered on me planning the food for the week and then when the husband says a couple of hours before dinner 'I don't want that', dashing off to Tesco Express to buy something else for him.  My freezer is positively groaning with stuff I've had to freeze that he decided he didn't want to eat that day.  And I rarely dare defrost anything just in case 'he doesn't feel like that today'  and it ends up in the bin.
That's not burnt (bottom right) it's the red wine reduction

Conversely, Mr Smug knows 40 days in advance what is for dinner on any given day because they have a planner.  How organised.  The husband tried to tell me I should do this to save money.  I pointed out that much as it would make my life so much easier as a full-time working mother, it wouldn't work because of him.  He thought about that one for a while.   And agreed.  So the cycle has not been and will never be broken.  Just my cooking spirit.

So just why did he buy me Lorraine Pascale's Home Cooking Made Easy for Christmas?  Because there's nothing in there he will eat (well other than cake) so I doubt I'll ever use it as we never have dinner guests.  He said the other day that he was really proud of me keeping up this blog for so long and he actually read it and thought it to be not bad.  But I've shifted away from my original goal which was to try to get him to eat new food.  On that front, I've completely failed, although really I was doomed from the start.

Finished pie filling
When we've been out to restaurants, he'll eat stuff I wouldn't dare offer him at home.  He took me to the Ritz for our first wedding anniversary and he actually ate and enjoyed ballotine of duck.  He once at someone else's lamb curry (it was a friend of ours!) at a Thai restaurant.  But in his own castle, he is king.  And if he doesn't want to eat something, it's harder than trying to feed a toddler with pursed lips.

I thought he might at least eat the profiteroles (after everyone failing to keep the child out of the kitchen while I was cooking yesterday I figured that hot caramel for a croquembouche was a bad idea) but no, he doesn't even want those today.  He's just going to eat the leftovers from Christmas.  How eco-friendly of him so I can't denounce him for not trying something new, can I?

Anyway, the pie filling is made and I want to blog now while I still have some spare time and sanity - the child is out at the zoo with the grandparents.

In the end, I ditched the BBC Good Food recipe I was going to use in favour of one from the GBBO book.  This is a really lovely book with loads of recipes from the series plus practical guides on how to do things.  Not sure who cooked this on the Bake Off but it's a really nice recipe.  This from someone (me) who doesn't like beef much and especially not beef pie, but is willing to make a sacrifice at Christmas for other people who will (hopefully) enjoy it more (my family - if they've not stuffed themselves silly pre-dinner like they did yesterday).

Fills a 23cm pie dish


  • 750g lean stewing steak, cut into 2.5cm dice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp plain flour
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped (I used whole shallots)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 350ml red wine
  • 250ml beef stock
  • large sprig of fresh thyme
  • 125g small button mushrooms
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Toss the beef in the flour, seasoned with a little salt and pepper, to coat thoroughly.  Heat the oil in a large, lidded frying pan.  Add the pieces of meat, a few at a time and fry for about 2 mins on each side or until nicely browned.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate.
  2. When all the meat has been browned, turn the heat right down and add the onions and garlic to the pot, stirring well to dislodge any bits stuck to the base.  Cover the pot and cook very gently, stirring occasionally, for about 12 minutes or until the onions are very soft and lightly golden.
  3. Meanwhile, simmer the red wine in a small pan until reduced by about one-third.  Pour into a measuring jug and make up to 500ml with beef stock.   Uncover the onions and stir in the wine and stock mixture followed by the beef (plus any juices on the plate) and the leaves from the sprig of thyme.   Bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover the pot and cook gently for 1 hour, stirring from time to time.
  4. Add the mushrooms and stir well.  Simmer, uncovered for another hour or until the meat is tender and the gravy is very thick and coats the meat.  Taste and add mofe salt and pepper as needed.  Leave to cool then cover and chill until you are ready to fill the pie.
As served (pic taken after blog was posted originally)


I'm planning to serve this with puff pastry lids, new potatoes and fresh asparagus (I know it's not in season here!).  Pudding will now be leftover mince pies, birthday cake or Christmas pudding (in the spirit of thrift) and I may just put my toys back in the pram and not give up on this blog - I'll just give up on the idea of my husband ever trying something new.  Although if the husband reads this and doesn't forgive me, there may be no blog tomorrow as I may be homeless.  Watch this space...

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