A beautifully balanced recipe for beef, oyster and ale pie with flavours of tarragon, dark ale, bacon.
1kg/2lb 2oz beef braising steak, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
50ml/2floz vegetable oil
175g/6oz smoked bacon, cut into large lardons
125g/4½oz onion, chopped
125g/4½oz carrots, peeled, cut into batons
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
125g/4½oz baby button mushrooms
25g/1oz plain flour
500ml/17½fl oz dark ale
1 tbsp chicken bouillon powder
2 litres/3½ pints boiling water
1 large bouquet garni (bay leaves, parsley and thyme, tied together with kitchen string)
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
350g/12oz new potatoes, larger ones halved
1 tsp tarragon, leaves only, chopped
12 large fresh oysters, shucked
250g/9oz ready-rolled puff pastry
1 free-range egg, plus 1 egg yolk, beaten together with a pinch of salt
Season the beef with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat a large pan until hot, then add the vegetable oil and fry the beef for 2-3 minutes, turning occasionally, until browned all over.
Add the smoked bacon and fry for a further 1-2 minutes, then add the onion, carrots, garlic and mushrooms. Fry for 2-3 minutes, then add the flour and stir well to prevent any lumps from forming. Cook for a further minute.
Pour in the dark ale, bring to the boil and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until reduced by half. Dissolve the chicken bouillon powder in the water, then add to the pan along with the bouquet garni, wholegrain mustard and new potatoes. Bring to the boil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then reduce to a simmer and cook for two hours, or until the beef is tender.
Add the chopped tarragon to the pan and season, to taste, if necessary. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool. Discard the bouquet garni.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
Spoon the beef mixture into a 20cm x 15cm/8in x 6in pie dish and add the oysters, folding them gently into the beef mixture.
Roll out the puff pastry until it is 3mm thick, then cut out pieces of pastry large enough to fit over the top of the pie dishes as a lid, with a bit of overhang. Crimp the edges with your fingers, securing the pastry to the dish.
Prick the surface of the pastry with a fork, then brush with the beaten egg. Place the pies onto a baking tray and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown and crisp.
Serve the pies with sides of lightly boiled seasonal green vegetables, such as green beans, broccoli or spinach.
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