From the ul­ti­mate steak and ale pie to the tasti­est chicken soup ever, Felic­ity Cloake takes the best ideas from top chefs’ recipes to cre­ate THE per­fect ver­sions. Now tuck into part two of her ir­re­sistible se­ries

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS -

Per­fec­tion­ist Felic­ity Cloake pre­sents four more of her ul­ti­mate recipes – in­clud­ing tasty chicken soup

You won’t find bet­ter recipes for your favourite dishes than these. Why? Be­cause Felic­ity Cloake has rig­or­ously tested ver­sions from all the greats – from El­iz­a­beth David and Delia to Jamie Oliver and Nigella – then pulled to­gether the best bits from each to cre­ate her own per­fect recipes. Now you can en­joy her un­beat­able cre­ations in our de­li­cious new se­ries

What a no­ble thing is the pie. Ev­ery­one, with the puz­zling ex­cep­tion of my own mother, loves plung­ing through that pastry por­tal to dis­cover the riches that lie be­neath – and whether that’s cheese and potato, ap­ple and black­berry or, as here, clas­sic meat and gravy, the pie rarely dis­ap­points.

The most im­por­tant thing about steak and ale pie is you shouldn’t use steak. Or at least, not the kind gen­er­ally rec­om­mended for pies – stew­ing, brais­ing and chuck steak all came out tough in my ex­per­i­ments. Much bet­ter were the shin beef rec­om­mended by Hugh Fearn­ley-Whit­tingstall and the ox cheek and ox tail de­ployed by the Hawksmoor steak restau­rant in their cook­book: flavour­some, rich, and yes, melt in the mouth. Gen­er­ously sized chunks of ba­con add an­other layer of smoky flavour (lest there be any re­main­ing doubt, this is not a din­ner for di­eters). I’m not keen on the slimy mush­rooms which seem baf­flingly com­mon in pie recipes, nor in­deed on the clas­sic but in­evitably mushy car­rots. But baby onions make the cut, adding sweet­ness to what is other­wise a de­fi­antly savoury dish.

For the gravy, ale is ob­vi­ously non-ne­go­tiable. Go for a full-bod­ied, sweeter va­ri­ety – as beer writer Melissa Cole ex­plains, us­ing just any old stout can make your gravy bit­ter. You could top it up with wa­ter, but I think the Hairy Bik­ers’ beef stock gives a more meaty re­sult. And then, de­spite what I’ve said about the ale, I’ve added some co­coa pow­der, like chef Tom Nor­ring­ton-Davies, which some­how rounds things off per­fectly.

Fi­nally, to top the dish, I’ve es­chewed the usual feath­erlight puff in favour of a crumbly suet ver­sion: crisp on top, soft, al­most doughy be­neath, and the per­fect thing for soak­ing up all that lovely gravy. I don’t, un­like Hugh, be­lieve it’s nec­es­sary to line the en­tire dish with the stuff, be­cause I’m not keen on the gum­mi­ness at the bot­tom. Serve with steamed greens, as a nod to a bal­anced diet. Pre­heat the oven to 170°C/fan 150°C/ gas 3. Melt a gen­er­ous knob of drip­ping in a large fry­ing pan over a high heat and toss the chunks of beef in sea­soned flour to coat.

Sear it in batches, tak­ing care not to over­crowd the pan, un­til well browned. Trans­fer to an oven-proof casse­role dish once done.

Re­duce the heat a lit­tle, and add the lar­dons and the onions to the pan. Cook un­til the ba­con fat be­gins to melt, and the onions are brown on all sides, then tip them into the casse­role along with any fat and juices.

Pour a glug of ale into the fry­ing pan and bring it to a sim­mer, scrap­ing the bot­tom to dis­lodge any bits, then pour the whole lot into the casse­role with the meat.

Add the re­main­ing ale, the stock, herbs, su­gar, vine­gar and co­coa, and bring it all to a sim­mer.

Cover the dish and bake for 2¼ hours, then un­cover and cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, for an­other 1½ hours, un­til the meat is ten­der and al­most fall­ing apart (it will cook fur­ther in the pie). Al­low to cool to room tem­per­a­ture.

Mean­while, make the pastry. Mix the flour, bak­ing pow­der and mus­tard pow­der, if us­ing, in a bowl with the salt. Stir in the fat, then add just enough iced wa­ter to make a dough. Shape into a disc, wrap in cling­film and chill for at least an hour.

Pre­heat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/ gas 5. Spoon the fill­ing into a pie dish, and roll out the pastry to about 1cm (½in) thick.

Wet the rim of the dish, then place the pastry over the fill­ing, push­ing down around the edge to seal. Cut a hole in the mid­dle to let the steam out. Brush with a lit­tle milk and bake for about 50 min­utes, un­til golden in colour.

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