Beef, stout and oyster pie

by Regula Ysewijn
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Beef, stout and oyster pie

As Dickens’ Sam Weller remarks in The Pickwick Papers, ‘Poverty and oysters always seem to go together’.Beef and oyster pie is a classic Victorian dish, it was the food of the poor and the poorer you were the more oysters you would put in your pie. Oysters were plentiful, the smaller ones sold as fast food on the streets of London or pickled to keep, while the bigger ones were put in stews and pies. It was a cheap source of protein.

Oyster are very sensitive to climate, environmental factors and diseases which makes them a business that isn’t without risk to the fishermen. The catch can vary from year to year and sometimes disappear into thin air completely. But fishermen solidarity and sense of community makes for a way of preserving the oyster beds. When oyster beds are devastated somewhere the beds are revived with oysters from other - competing - fisheries.

This pie is wonderfully succulent, once a poor man’s dinner it now graces our tables with elegance. The beef, oyster and stout or porter beer are a perfect pairing together with a rich suet crust - just like your Nan used to make but let’s kick it up a notch and put some effort into the decoration of the pie! It’s fun to let your children have a go with the leftover pastry (you will have leftover with this recipe). Keep in the freezer until needed, defrost the evening before in your fridge.

This recipe works just as good as a stew, feeding 4 hungry mouths.

Ingredients

1
Preheat your oven to 160C
2
Add the carrots and onion to a cast iron casserole and colour them over a medium fire
3
Dust the meat with the flour and add it to the vegetables
4
Immediately pour in the stout, mushroom ketchup and herbs.
If the meat isn’t completely covered in liquid, add some water or extra stout until it’s just covered
5
Bring to the boil without putting on the lid
6
When boiling, put on the lid and place in a lower part of the oven for 3-3,5 hours.
It depends on the animal used, the quality of the meat and how lean it is to know when the meat will be done. Check on it regularly so you don’t end up with dry meat. The meat is done when it is about to fall apart
7
For the pastry lid, combine the flour, butter, suet and salt in a large mixing bowl and use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour. Keep on doing this until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
8
Pour in the water and start pressing the liquid into the breadcrumb-like mixture. Be gentle as you must be careful not to overwork the dough
9
When you have created a rough dough, wrap it in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for an hour or more. You can prepare the pastry the day before if you’re feeling organized
10
Preheat your oven to 180C
11
Ladle the stew into your shallow pie dish and place the oysters neatly so everyone will find some in his plate
12
Use the beaten egg to eggwash the edges of the pie dish
13
Take your pastry out of the fridge and place it on a floured work surface. Now roll out the pastry about 1 cm thick and make sure it’s larger than your pie dish
14
Now carefully pick up the pastry and place it over the pie dish. Trim off the edges of the pastry so you get a nice lid. Now crimp the edges by using your thumb or a fork so the pastry lid is closed tightly
15
Decorate the pie lid if you like and eggwash generously before putting into the oven on one of the lower parts
16
The pie should be nice and golden after 40-45 minutes. Serve with peas and carrots because you’ve got to have peas and carrots with pie