1 tranche of marrowbone, about 2cm long (optional)
2 tbsp plain flour
¼ tsp ground mace (optional)
800g diced braising beef (a mixture of shin and brisket is best)
4 level tbsp dripping, lard or duck fat, plus extra for greasing
3 medium onions, roughly chopped
300ml stout or dark real ale
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
750ml-1 litre beef or chicken stock
(sh) For the pastry
200g self-raising flour, plus extra
½ tsp salt
1 medium free-range egg, beaten
1. First, make the pastry: combine the flour, suet and salt in a large bowl. Add 120ml cold water and work by hand until you have a cohesive but non-sticky dough. If it seems dry, add 10-15ml more water. Wrap in cling film and chill for 1 hour. (You can make the pastry up to a day ahead.)
2. If you’re using a marrow flute, soak the marrowbone in cold water for 1-2 hours to remove any blood, then roast at 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4, on a tray lined with baking paper, for 20 minutes, until slightly browned. Remove and cool completely.
3. Season the flour with salt and pepper, and the mace (if using). Toss the beef in the flour. Heat half the fat in a wide frying pan or casserole and, when it is starting to smoke, brown the meat in batches. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add the remaining fat to the pan with the onions and a pinch of salt and fry over a low heat for 20 minutes, until the onions are soft, sweet but not brown. Add the stout or beer and the Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer.
4. Return the meat to the pan and cover with stock, then bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and braise, stirring occasionally, until the meat is really tender – this should take 2½ hours. Top up with more stock, if it looks really dry. Once cooked, check the seasoning, then cool completely. (Again, this is perfect if made the day before assembling the pie.)
5. Grease a 1-litre pie dish and spoon in the pie filling. Plant the flute or marrowbone, cut-side up, in the middle. It can actually sit just proud of the meat; don’t push it in.
6. Preheat the oven to 240°C/fan220°C/ gas 9. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the pastry until it is 5mm thick. Drape it over the dish allowing it to overhang slightly. Eggwash the pastry and cook the pie for 30 minutes, covering with foil for the last 10 minutes if it’s browning too much. Serve immediately.
- Ask your butcher to cut a natural flute made of marrow bone, this is a great way of suspending the pastry just above the meat. This allows steam to escape from the pie, enriches the flavour, and gives people something to fight over, if you have the kind of diners who like scooping marrow out of bones. If this doesn’t grab you, simply use a run-of-the-mill pie flute.
- You can’t beat a sturdy, spicy French red – Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Minervois are both great.