Beef, stout and oyster pie

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Regula's beef and oyster pie recipe is a wonderful take on this traditional British dish. Using stout to cook the beef provides a heady depth of flavour, while the heavenly oysters add a real taste of the seaside to this brilliant steak 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.

Oysters are very sensitive to climate, environmental factors and diseases which make them risky business for fishermen. The catch can vary from year to year and can sometimes disappear into thin air completely. But the solidarity of fishermen and sense of community ensures that oyster beds are preserved. 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, and defrost the evening before in your fridge.

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





For the filling

For the pastry


Preheat the oven to 160°C/gas mark 3
Add the carrots and onion to a cast iron casserole and colour over a medium heat
Dust the meat with the flour and add it to the vegetables, stirring until nicely browned all over
Immediately pour in the stout, mushroom ketchup and herbs. If the meat isn’t completely covered by the liquid, add some water or extra stout until it’s just covered
Bring to the boil without putting on the lid
Once boiling, put on the lid and place on a low shelf in the oven for 3–3.5 hours. Cooking time depends on a number of factors, including the quality of the meat used and how lean it is. Check on it regularly so you don’t end up with dry meat – it is done when it is just about to fall apart
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
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
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 organised
Preheat your oven to 180°C/gas mark 4
Ladle the stew into your shallow pie dish and distribute the oysters neatly so everyone will find some in their plate
Use the beaten egg to eggwash the edges of the pie dish
Take your pastry out of the fridge and place on a floured work surface. Roll out to a 1cm thickness, ensuring it is larger than your pie dish
Carefully pick up the pastry and drapeit over the pie dish. Trim the edges of the pastry so you get a nice neat lid, then crimp the edges by using your thumb or a fork so the pastry lid is closed tightly
Decorate the pie lid if you like and egg-wash generously before baking on a low shelf of the oven
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 a pie

Food photographer, graphic designer and author of Pride and Pudding (Murdoch 2016).

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