Steak And Ale Pie (Felicity Cloake)

Serves 4

Large chunk of dripping
700g boneless beef shin or ox cheek, cut into large chunks
20g plain flour, seasoned
200g smoked bacon lardons
225g whole baby onions
400ml sweetish dark ale
400ml beef stock
4 sprigs of thyme, leaves roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp cocoa

For the pastry:
400g plain flour, plus extra to dust
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mustard powder (optional)
½ tsp salt
175g suet (or chilled, grated bone marrow if you have it)
Iced water
A little milk, to glaze

1. Preheat the oven to 150C (fan). Heat a generous chunk of dripping in a large frying pan over a high heat, and toss the beef in seasoned flour to coat. Sear the beef in batches, taking care not to overcrowd the pan, until properly browned. Spoon into an ovenproof casserole once done.

2. Turn down the heat slightly, and add the lardons and the onions to the pan. Cook until the bacon fat begins to melt, and the onions to brown on all sides, then tip into the casserole.

3. Pour a little of the ale into the pan and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom, them pour the whole lot into the casserole with the meat. Add the rest of the ale, and the stock, herbs, sugar, vinegar and cocoa and bring to a simmer.

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

5. Meanwhile, make the pastry. Put the flour, baking powder and mustard powder in a bowl with ½ tsp salt. Stir in the fat, and then add enough iced water to bring it together into a dough. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour.

6. Preheat the oven to 170C (fan). Spoon the pie filling into a dish, and roll out the pastry on a floured surface to about 1cm thick. Place over the pie, pushing down around the edge to seal, and cut a hole in the middle to allow steam out. Brush with milk and then bake for about 50 minutes until golden.

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