Eat to live, or live to eat? That is the question. For me, it is the latter every time. Each day I enthusiastically approach a meal or snack with the same attitude; that I am really looking forward to it. From the moment I awake, I'm thinking about the porridge with raisins and honey or the hot buttered toast and strong builder's tea. Once finished, I'm usually thinking about what to have for lunch and dinner. And why not? Food can enhance your life; you are what you eat can never be a more true statement and it can affect your moods in so many ways.
Some foods are born to make you instantly cosy, warm and happy. Now that the days are getting frosty and the night is drawing in quicker, you need to start filling yourself with 'feel good' food in order to have a happy winter. So the likes of shepherd's pies, slow braised meat and vegetable casseroles with proper suet dumplings and fruit crumbles with creamy hot custard all spring to mind as essentials. Lots of flavour, lots of warmth and instant resuscitation after a hard day at work.
One of my absolute favourite 'winter warmer feel good foods' has to be a good old steak and kidney pie. Succulent slow braised beef that melts in your mouth, with sweet kidneys accompanied by whole shallots and drowned in a rich beer gravy, all topped off with a thick shortcrust pastry which cracks like an ice covered lake when punctured with a serving spoon. When I eat something like this, no matter how miserable I feel, it cannot help to put a smile on my face and make me feel better about the world.
We have loads of these types of recipes over here in the U.K. If only we sang about them a bit more often, told people how fantastic they were and devoured them with the passion that they deserve, then we would surely be the happiest nation in the world. Live to eat. Eat to be happy. Eat.
Steak, Kidney, Mushroom and Ale Pie
1kg braising beef
200g cow's kidneys, chopped into bite size pieces
20 whole shallots, peeled
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 sticks of celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
250g mushrooms, halved
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp thyme, dried or fresh
1 bottle of good ale, I used Jarrow Brewery Rivet Catcher
500ml beef stock
1 quantity of shortcrust pastry to fit your pie dish
1 egg, beaten
1 - Pre-heat the oven to 160C/Fan 140C/GM4.
2 - Heat some olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Season a quantity of plain flour then coat the beef and kidney. Cook quickly in batches until golden, then tip into a large casserole dish.
3 - Add more oil, then add the shallots, onion, carrots and celery. Cook for 5 minutes until they begin to colour, then add the garlic, herbs and tomato purée and cook for 1 minute, stirring all of the time. Tip into the casserole dish.
4 - Pour a little of the beer into the frying pan and scrape with a wooden spoon to remove any essential bits that may be stuck. Pour into the casserole dish along with the rest of the beer. Then add the beef stock until the meat and vegetables are just covered. Bring to the boil then put into the oven for 2 hours.
5 - Cook the mushrooms in the frying pan with a little oil until they have released some water and coloured slightly. Add to the casserole, then tip into a pie dish.
6 - Dampen the edge of the pastry with a little egg wash, then cover the pie with the shortcrust pastry. You may want to add a pie support to stop the pastry from sinking, I used a steel chef's ring. Cover with egg wash with a pastry brush. Puncture the centre with a small hole to allow steam to escape.
7 - Put into the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Serve with mash and lots of vegetables.
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