Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Slow Cooker Beef and Guinness Stew - or Pie

When weather turns chilly, my thoughts turn to my slow cooker and a nice beefy stew with Guinness. Serve the warming bowls of deliciousness as is or top the stew with puff pastry and bake for a beautiful beef and Guinness pie. 

Whenever we are traveling and have the chance to eat a pub lunch, my husband almost invariably orders the beef and Guinness pie, if there is one on the menu. He loves the filling and the flaky puff pastry top. When decent pub grub is not available, I make my own. For stew beef to become tender, slow cooking is the way to go, so I like to use my crockpot to make the filling. After browning the meat, everything goes in the pot and I can get on with other projects like baking his favorite apple rhubarb strawberry pie. Pie for dinner and pie for dessert and he’s a happy man.

Ingredients
For the stew:
5 slices streaky smoked bacon
2 lbs or 950g braising or stew meat
1.1 lb or 500g marrow bones (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons or 15g flour
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 large onion (about 7 oz or 200g)
1 large carrot (about 5 1/2 oz or 155g)
1 large parsnip (about 5 1/2 oz or 155g)
1 can (14 oz or 400g) chopped tomatoes with their juice
1 can (12 oz or 355 ml) Guinness stout
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt
Freshly ground pepper

For the pie:
1 sheet puff pastry (8 oz or 230g)

Method
Cut your meat into bite-sized pieces, removing any gristle you can see.



Lay it out in a single layer on your cutting board and season it with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle it with the tablespoon and a half of plain flour and toss it around with your clean hands until well mixed.



Peel and cut the parsnip and carrot into pieces. Cover the parsnip with water in a small bowl until ready to use, to stop it from turning brown. Chop your onion roughly.



Cut the bacon into small pieces and fry until crispy in a non-stick pan. Remove the crispy bits from the rendered bacon fat and set aside.



Fry the meat in the bacon fat until browned on all sides, in two or three lots so that the pan doesn’t get crowded.

If you put too many pieces in at once, it will just steam instead of browning. As the batches get browned, remove them to a bowl.



Now you ready to put everything in the slow cooker.

Start with the meat, then add the onion, parsnip and carrot. Top with the bacon, thyme and bay leaf. Pour the canned tomatoes in and then the can of Guinness.



Tuck the marrow bones down into the vegetables, if using.



Cook on high for three to four hours or until the beef is tender. Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper to taste.

This can be served exactly as is or it can be baked as pie topped with puff pastry.

If you cooked your stew with the optional marrow bones, these can be put under the broiler or grill in the oven to brown. They are lovely served as an appetizer with toast on which to spread the marrow.

To make the pie, preheat your oven to 400°F or 200°C.

Spoon your beef and Guinness stew into a baking pan and allow it to cool a little while your oven preheats. I like to use a small pan that holds the beef and vegetables with a good amount of the broth that is created while the stew slow cooks. Then I thicken the rest of the broth with a little flour and serve it as extra gravy with the pie.



Slice the outside edges off of your puff pastry sheet and cut a few slits in the middle.



When your oven is up to temperature, cover the filled baking pan with your puff pastry. Fold the sides up so they don't hang over the edges. Press down all around the edges to seal the crust to the pan. You can use the trimmed pieces to decorate the top, if you want.



Pop it in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the puff pastry is golden.



To serve, cut a piece of the puff pastry off the top and fold it back. Scoop the stew into your bowl and top with the puff pastry.



Enjoy!


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