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Great British Beef Week – steak and ale pie

To mark this year’s Great British Beef Week I decided to cook a different dish using our own beef each night.

As Sunday marked the last day I decided a slow-cooked dish packed full of flavour was needed, so I plumped for steak and ale pie.

When I was planning my week of menus last weekend I realised this dish needed a bit of preparation so it began two days before it was needed – yep, two days.

The recipe called for brown chicken stock – not really knowing what this was I did some research and turned to the king of stocks – Heston Blumenthal – to find out. If you don’t know either, brown chicken stock is stock where the chicken has been browned prior to cooking, normally in the oven.

Heston’s recipe called for 2.5kg of chicken wings – that’s a lot, 28 in fact. What I didn’t realise is that these are readily available – frozen – from my local butchers, the fabulous DA Browne & Son in Harleston.

After picking up the wings and smugly walking out of the butchers, casually swinging my loot (which cost a mere £3.98) I came straight back home and set them to defrost.

Now, those of you who know me may know that one of my downfalls is not reading a recipe through fully before embarking on it.

This time I didn’t want to get it wrong so while the wings were defrosting I read that the stock took more than four hours, in various stages, to cook – in a pressure cooker. I’ve not used a pressure cooker before but do own one, gifted to me from my mum who could no longer use it on her new induction hob. The only thing was, I was missing the weights for the cooker – the hunt to track them down began. The short story is that three phone calls to mum later we decided it was probably in my house not hers (long story) and after 90 minutes of searching I found in buried deep beneath the tea towels in a drawer only used for tea towels.

So I now had a pressure cooker.

The next day – with builders working in the kitchen – I embarked on stock making before the task of cooking the beef and ale filling for the pie – which took another four hours. I was making it the day before I needed it for two reasons, Sunday was going to be busy and stews always taste better on the second day.

The filling, a combination of braising steak, ale, mushrooms, onions, brown chicken stock and tomato puree, is topped with puff pastry and served with carrots and caramelised celeriac mash.

Years ago, or even months ago, I would cringe at the thought of spending four hours making stock but now I relish it, I’ve begun to realise that time is integral to good food – that and lots of love.

Last night, pulling the components together was quick and satisfying, all that time and effort seemed worth it.

And, how did it taste?

It was rich, deep and meaty and was balanced well with the caramalised celeriac mash and pickled carrot strips. The rest of the filling is now patiently waiting in the freezer for another day.

To cut through the richness of the main course I decided to end the meal with a rhubarb dish. Without trying, making a rhubarb dessert on a Sunday has started to become a bit of a tradition. I try to make something different with it each week and this week it was roasted rhubarb, crystallised puff pastry with orange sugar, Chantilly cream, rhubarb jus, caramelised orange, rhubarb puree and vanilla ice cream. It took a while but the combination of rhubarb and orange was sublime…

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