steak and ale pie

February 28, 2011

Steak and Ale Pie 650

This is a British pub classic and a brilliant winter warmer that you’ve got to try…tonight.

When Dan and I were still just boyfriend and girlfriend he used to visit me in Sheffield, in the north of England where I was at university while he was studying abroad in Spain. Heady days, I tell you what.


On one of those trips we drove out to Castleton, a village near Sheffield in the Peak District. Castleton could definitely win a Most Quaint English Village award. It’s been around since 1198 and has a Norman castle, stunning scenery, and some pretty awesome caves. Plus it has some stellar pubs. Mm hm, I have my priorities straight.


That afternoon, me and Dan had gone on a long, chilly walk. We stumbled across a flock of sheep and being the cool kids that we are thought it would be funny to chase them, trying to get photographs. I, of course, promptly slipped in the mud and ended up on my arse feeling pretty stupid, while Dan oh-so-kindly took photos of me before helping me up. And to think I married him.


Anyway, back to pubs and pie. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn in Castleton serves up a stonking good steak and ale pie. I took Dan there, I’ve taken my Mum there…they don’t mess around when it comes to a good pie and that’s what I tried to emulate here.

Browned steak, mushrooms, and carrots cooked in ale for a good couple of hours and topped with crispy, buttery puffed pastry.

We ate this after watching our beloved football team Arsenal go out of the Carling Cup Final. Commiseration pie, if you will. I’m sorry, did I lose you? Just know that this is a brilliant winter warmer, and if you use ready-made puffed pastry like I did, it’s a cinch to throw together.

The biggest thing with these kind of pies is getting the pastry/meat ratio right. Next time I try it I think it would be fun to do individual ramekins – like they serve in pubs – to control the amount of pastry everyone gets. Yum.

Steak and Ale Pie
serves four


  • 2lb braising steak or stewing beef, diced into small cubes
  • 1oz flour, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for dusting
  • 3½oz butter
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 5½oz button mushrooms
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 14fl oz good-quality English ale (I found Hobgoblin at our local liquor store)
  • 17fl oz beef stock
  • dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 whole egg beaten
  • 10½oz ready-made rolled puff pastry


  1. Place the flour in a medium-sized bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Roll the beef in the flour to coat.
  2. Place a large lidded pan on the hob.
  3. Heat half the butter in the pan and add the meat. Sear all over until golden brown.
  4. Add the vegetables and herbs, then pour in the ale and stock. Bring to a simmer, then cover with a lid and gently simmer on the stove for 1½ hours.
  5. Remove the bay leaf and discard. The mixture should have thickened up and reduced quite a bit. If yours is still really liquidy then I recommend adding some corn starch (mixed with cold water first) to thicken it up quickly.
  6. Preheat the oven to 425F.
  7. Once cooked, season the stew with salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Add the remaining butter and tip into an ovenproof serving dish or pie dish. Brush the edge of the dish with the beaten egg.
  8. Roll out the pastry and cover the pie. Scrunch the pastry round the edge of the dish and trim around the edge, leaving a little overhanging. Pinch the edges of the dish so that the pastry will stick to it and trim off any remaining pieces of pastry from around the edge.
  9. Brush the pastry top thoroughly with beaten egg and place on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 15-25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown on top and serve immediately.

Note: a couple of readers have noted that they seemed to end up with a disproportionate amount of liquid in their pie so you may want to adjust accordingly. This hasn’t been a problem for me but if you’re worried about this I would recommend reducing the amount of beer and stock you begin with.

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