Even though La Marie and I haven’t yet moved to France yet we visit frequently. My parents retired to Normandy so I regularly have the opportunity of quenching my thirst for all things French!
However not everything is plain sailing and I always find it difficult when approaching cooking whilst I’m there. I am sure that the butter and milk is richer, ingredients that we would now find common in the UK are not available in France (curry? What’s curry?) and there is the whole language problem. So when I do cook here it’s with a certain amount of trepidation.
One such exercise was this delicious pie. At home I’d make it with Stilton and a good, dark ale. Here I had to substitute Roquefort for Stilton, so far so good, but the dark ale had me stumped. There are many blonde beers, but the dark varieties are nowhere to be found.
So I turned to a pale beer called La Divine Saint Landelin which is a sweet, strong beer with a taste that is described as having a ‘farmhouse mustiness’ (though obviously only be people who are a bit too full of themselves). If you’re in France living the dream you can follow the recipe as below, or if like me you’re still dreaming in Blighty then you can use the Stilton and a good ale.
Ingredients and Method
Knob of butter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Pinch of rosemary, thyme and basil
500g of stewing steak
250g chestnut mushrooms
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
1 1/2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
175ml of dark brown ale or la Divine Saint Landelin
1 1/2 heaped tablespoons of plain flour
750ml beef stock
100g blue cheese
for the pastry
150g plain flour
50g shredded suet
50g cold butter
- In a saucepan on the stove put the butter, herbs and onions and cook until the onions are transparent.
- Whilst the onions are cooking trim the meat of excess fat and slice into 1/2inch thick strips. Slice the mushrooms and add them to the pan with the tomato puree and balsamic vinegar.
- Put the tablespoon of flour I to a cup and then add some of the stock a little at a time until the flour and stock is a runny consistency. Add this and the remainder of the stock to the pot. Bring to the boil then simmer for about thirty minutes.
- Put this mixture into a ceramic dish and then place into an oven at 140C for about one hour. Leave it uncovered to allow the sauce to reduce but make sure you check on it regularly so it doesn’t burn.
- Put the flour, butter and suet into a bowl and rub together between the fingertips until it represents breadcrumbs. Add a little water a tablespoon at a time until a dough is formed. Wrap in cling film and place into the fridge until required.
- When the hour is through thinly slice the cheese and lay it onto the sauce mixture. Take the dough and roll it out slightly wider than the pie dish. With a pastry brush cover the edge of the pie dish with milk then lay the pastry onto it, trimming the edges. Then brush more milk onto the surface of the dough.
- Raise the temperature of the oven to 180C and place the pie inside cooking for another 40 minutes or until the pastry is light brown.
An Anglo-Francaise success!