Category Archives: Baking

All things baking

Beef and Mushroom Pie with Bombardier Ale

 steak & ale pie

The sweetness provided by the carrots and the ale bring the perfect balance to this rich beefy pie with strong mushroom back notes.

For the meat, I used Aberdeen Angus, which gave the pie a wonderful beefy richness and a soft texture.

The addition of a small amount Marmite XO shouldn’t upset the Marmite-ophobes. Used as a seasoning, it provides an umami boost, but there isn’t sufficient to be recognisable as Marmite.

I’d suggest you use whatever mushrooms are available. I used a mixture of oyster mushrooms and hedgehogs, both of which retain some texture after a long slow cook. The hedgehogs also provide the slightest hint of bitterness which further helps to satisfy the taste buds.

The 50:50 mixture of lard and butter makes for the lightest and tastiest of pastries that fully deserves equal billing with the rich, delicious filling. But if making pastry isn’t your thing, then simply use ready-made shortcrust.

The recipe is for a single large pie, but the filling makes about 6 individual pies if  preferred.

For the filling
3 tbsp   Olive oil
600g      Braising steak – 3cm cubes
1 large  Onion, chopped
2 large  Carrots, sliced
2 tbsp   Plain flour
200ml   Dark ale – Bombardier or Old Peculiar work well
1             Beef stock cube
½ tsp    Marmite XO
15g        Dried porcini mushrooms
200g      Mixed mushrooms – button, oyster, hedgehog – whatever is available
1             Bouquet garni
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pastry
700g     Plain flour
180g     Lard, cold, diced
170g     Butter,  cold, diced
½ tsp    Salt
Chilled water
1             Egg yolk beaten with a tablespoon of cold water and a pinch of salt to glaze

Making the Filling

Set the oven to 160°C/Gas 3.

Place a casserole dish on the hob and heat the oil. Fry the beef in batches until browned and set aside.

Fry the onion and carrot until softened then sprinkle on the flour and stir in. Continue to cook for 1 minute.

Return the beef to the casserole, adding 200ml of ale and 200ml of water.

Crumble in the stock cube and add the bouquet garni. Finally the fresh and dried mushrooms. Bring to a simmer.

Place the lid on the casserole and continue to cook in the oven.

Check every 30 minutes or so to make sure the stew isn’t sticking. Add a little ale and water if is it.

Cook for about  2 to 2½ hours, until the meat is tender and the sauce thickened.

If the sauce is looking a little wet, then cook with the lid off for the last 15 to 30 minutes.

Similarly, if the stew looks a little dry before the meat is tender, add a ale and water water.

When cooked, remove from the oven and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside to cool completely, then chill in the fridge until you are ready to assemble your pie.

Making the Pastry

Put the flour into a large mixing bowl.

Add the diced butter and lard. Rub the fat into the flour using your finger tips until the mixture  is completely combined and resembles bread crumbs. Add chilled water and cut in using a knife until the pastry comes together. You may need up to about 200ml water.

Gather the pastry into two roughly equal balls, wrap them individually with cling film and chill for at least an hour.

Assembling the Pie

Grease your pie dish with butter and set aside.

Roll one of the pastry balls to about 5mm thickness and line the pie dish.

Place the cold filling in the pie and level.

Brush the rim of the pastry with milk.

Roll  the other pastry ball to about 5mm thickness and lay over t he top of the pie.

Trim and crimp the edge of the pie to form a good seal.

Cover the pie with cling film and chill in the fridge for an hour.

Baking the pie

Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas 7 and place a heavy baking sheet in the over just at mid height.

When the oven is thoroughly hot, brush the pie with a mixture of egg yolk and water and make a small hole in the top to let the steam out. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until golden. Reduce the heat if it starts to brown too quickly.

Baking individual pies

If making individual pies, reduce the baking time to about 25 minutes.

Chorizo Rolls – Preñaditos de Chorizo

With Bonfire Night looming fast, it’s time to think what treats would go down well on a cold November evening. For me it’s Preñaditos de Chorizo. Small bread rolls, each ‘pregnant’ with a small chorizo. A bun with a bun in the oven. Simply divine! What’s not to like about that?


To get ahead, make them in advance and warm them up just before serving.

You can find the recipe for my take on this Spanish classic here.


Plum and Green Gage Tart

The plum and green gage season is just around the corner and before long they will be available by the bucket load absolutely free for anyone who cares to seek them out. With the first of the green gages appearing in the shops, I thought it time I reacquainted myself with their gorgeous flavour with this plum and green gage tart.

Plum and green gage tart

Loganberry Delights

Driving from Snape to Orford the other day my eye was caught by a roadside sign. I’d passed it a hundred times before, but this time it had something to say. It said ‘Loganberries’. The sun was out, the day was warm, I had time on my hands and I thought to myself, “Why not?”.

The fruit farm is a family-run business producing top-quality fruit . The small shop is run as self-service with options for pre-picked or pick your own. I decided on the latter and simply bought some empty punnets.

As I approached the loganberry filed, I met a man flaked out on the grass in the shade of a large tree. He was quite obviously puffing and needed to cool off. But with what breath he could spare, he kindly advised me that the first three rows were the best bet as the rest had been picked the previous day.

I never actually saw or heard the man’s wife, but I did hear the man encouraging her to stop picking. “How much more do you want? Surely you’ve got enough by now.”

Half an hour later I could hear a commotion by the entrance to the field. “We can’t take all that!”, exclaimed the man, “There’s of fifty quid’s worth there.” Later he said, ” No way I can carry all that.” Then, “I’m not making two trips to the car!” and so it went on.

It’s fair to say that still having a number of jars of loganberry jam from last year I rather overdid it, too, but there’s always something you can do with ripe, fresh fruit. This is my loganberry chocolate tart.


Busy with work commitments, I was in danger of letting the rest of my precious harvest go to waste, so I decided to purée the remaining fruit and save it for another day, when time would allow me to create something tasty with it.

Loganberry Purée


Empanada Gallega

The empanada is a thin crusted, flat pie from Spain. Though traditionally they were made with a variety of fillings such a sardines, veal or even eels, the most popular filling today is the tuna and tomato version from Galicia, the empanada Gallega.  Cut into rough squares and eaten cold these are the perfect picnic food.

On one occasion,  I went to one of the many ancestral summer fiestas up in Norther Spain, in this case at Monte de Santa Tecla, where the only way to the fiesta was via a narrow, winding path up the side of the mountain during the hottest part of the day. To a background of mass drumming, pilgrims and revellers drenched each other in inky wine and tore each others clothes in a bloodless, but deeply colourful mock battle. Inevitably, attention turned to food and empanadas the size of cartwheels and other treats appeared as if from nowhere and everybody gorged themselves. Come evening, sporting tattered, wine-stained t-shirts and altogether worse for wear, the descending hordes were rewarded with a cool and cleansing splash at the nearby beach.


Whenever the topic of empanada came up in conversation, my flatmate in Madrid would always chip in with “What a lot of fuss over a pasty!” Needless to say we disagreed on that point.