Have you guys seen Jamie Oliver's new show, Jamie at Home? It's pretty fantastic. I have to say it's so so nice to have him back, just cooking. I mean I enjoyed some of his other shows like the one where he's training the angry teenagers to work in a restaurant kitchen or the one depicting his fruitless quest to get little school kids to eat anything besides chicken nuggets, but it's when he's preparing food that I find him the most entertaining. In case you can't tell, I LOVE me some Jamie Oliver. In fact, it's Jamie Oliver that got me into cooking in the first place. On a trip home for Thanksgiving or Christmas or something my mom had Food Network on and raved about this "darling young English boy." At that point I had never really watched Food Network and all I knew of it was it was the home to that annoying hunchback who always shouted BAM! So my mom and I watched a couple episodes of the Naked Chef. From then on, I was hooked. Jamie made cooking seem so fun. He'd jump on his scooter and peel off to the market to pick up some fillets of beef or some veggies. He'd chop chop chop and throw things in pots from across the kitchen (which was fantastic). He'd use all sorts of British slang that I didn't understand. (What does he mean by "pukka"?) He was such a far cry from the PBS cooking shows my mom watched every Saturday - boring, dry shows like The Victory Garden or The Frugal Gourmet. As soon as I got back to LA I told Annie about this crazy bloke and she too became addicted. We rushed out and bought his cookbooks and delved in fearlessly. It was so exciting and he was really instrumental in changing the way I looked at cooking.
So anyway, I was more than a little excited when I read about his return to Food Network. This time instead of his hip, urban kitchen with the huge arched window and the spiral staircase, Jamie cooks at a rustic country estate with a lush garden, an outdoor brick oven and a kitchen full shelves stacked mismatched bowls and plates. The energy is a little less hyper but it's still unmistakably very Jamie. Each episode is dedicated to a certain ingredient and features several recipes utilizing it. So far he's done a show on squashes and pumpkins, peppers (in which he made an incredible looking goulash, which you might be seeing soon), and pastry, which this recipe is from. The recipe for some reason was not on the Food Network website nor was it on Jamie's personal website. Thankfully in some random Jamie related forum, someone had re-watched the episode and typed up the list of ingredients and instructions. This is my take on that recipe. Thanks Jamie and welcome back. You were missed.
(for the stew)
2 to 2 1/2 pounds chuck roast or beef brisket, trimmed of excess fat and cut into large cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
3 smallish red onions, sliced
3 stalks of celery, sliced
3 carrots, sliced
8 ounces of mushrooms (something like baby bella but not button), sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 pint of Guinness
1 cup or so of beef stock (or you could use water)
1 dried bay leaf
(for the pies)
1 cup English cheddar, shredded
1 box frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 egg, lightly beaten
boiled peas tossed with a little butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Pour in enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom. Season the beef cubes generously with salt and pepper and once the oil is shimmery, add the beef to the pot being careful not to over crowd. Brown the meat well on all sides and then remove to a plate while you continue browning the rest of the meat. Set the plate of browned meat aside while you continue with the vegetables.
Reduce the heat to medium. Into the same pot, add a little more oil and the butter. Once the butter has melted, toss in the red onions, thyme, rosemary and season with 1 teaspoon of salt and a few grindings of balck pepper. Stir to combine and then cook for about 5 minutes until the onions have softened. As the salt draws out the moisture in the onions, scrape up the brown bits that was left in the bottom of the pot from the meat.
Add in the chopped garlic and cook for another minute. Then add in the celery and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, until the celery has softened.
Return the meat to the pot along with any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Stir in the sliced mushrooms and then sprinkle over the flour, stirring to coat everything. Cook for 2 minutes or so, to remove the raw flour taste, stirring frequently so the flour doesn't burn to the bottom of the pot.
Pour in the Guinness and enough beef broth so that the meat and vegetables are almost but not quite covered. Tuck in the bay leaf and bring to a gentle boil.
Cover and then place in the oven for 2 hours.
Dust your work surface with some flour. Take one of the puff pastry sheets and slice in half but don't bother to unfold it. Scatter the pastry with a bit more flour and roll out to form a large square, big enough to cover the bottom and sides of your oven proof bowl or baking dish, with a little draping over the edge. Line your bowl or baking dish with the puff pastry. Sprinkle a little of the shredded cheddar cheese into the bottom of the bowl and then spoon in enough of the stew to fill the bowl up to the top. Scatter over more of the cheddar cheese.
For the top of the pie, take the second puff pastry sheet, slice it in half (again, don't unfold the pastry) and roll out into a large square, but not as big as the first one. It only needs to be as big around as your baking dish or bowl, plus about 1 inch on each side. With a small sharp knife, score the pastry with straight lines about 1/2 inch apart in a grid pattern.
Crack the egg into a small bowl and beat with a fork. Brush the edges of the pastry lining the bowl with the egg. Place the scored pastry dough on top, 1/4 turn from the dough lining the bowl. You don't want the points of the two squares of dough to be aligned. Press the edges of the dough together and then roll and crimp the edges together to form a crust around the edge of the pie. Paint the top and crust with more of the egg and then grind over a little black pepper.
Place the the pies on a small baking sheet and slide into the oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes (mine took 35), until puffed and golden. Remove the pies from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes.
Slice, scoop into shallow bowls and serve with boiled peas.
Perfect for cold and/or rainy weather, this dish transported me back to my first meal ever in London, at a divey little pub in Belsize Park. Of course I think this one probably tastes better. There are so many layers of flavor going on. The beef has incredible depth thanks to the browning and the braising in Guinness. The red onions and carrots add a subtle hint of sweetness while the rosemary, thyme and mushrooms contrast that with an earthy woodsiness. The cheddar, creamy and sharp, melts into the sauce, thickening it, adding to the richness. Then there is the puff pastry. Flaky and light, yet so buttery and rich, the texture and flavor works really well with the velvety, hearty meat and vegetables.
I know I call these "individual" pies, but once I started making them they seemed a big big for one person. In fact each pie very comfortably serves two people. If you'd rather not make the individual pies you could very easily just make one big one. I happen to find the smaller pies more fun. Of course you could just make the beef and Guinness stew and forget about the pie portion, but it's totally worth the effort.