Steak and guinness pie

Steak and guinness pie

If asked for an example of typical British food I imagine most people would answer “fish and chips”. A year ago I would likely have said the same (“chicken tikka masala” would also have crossed my mind). But it only took me a few weeks after arriving in the UK to realize that the correct answer is “pies”. By which I mean a flaky pastry encasing some sort of meat or fish. Sure, other countries do these as well: think empanadas and American pot pies. But the British seem singularly obsessed by them. Walk along any shopping street or supermarket aisle and you’ll be spoilt for choice by the sheer variety of pies on offer.

Pies galore

Why this obsession with pies? An article not long ago in the Financial Times gives a clue. It argues that back in Georgian and Victorian times most homes didn’t have a kitchen and ready made food, much of it designed to be portable and eaten standing up or on the go, was the norm. Hence the invention and popularity of pies, fish and chips, sausage rolls and the like. That seems plausible (and might also explain the wealth and general excellence of what the British call “ready meals” on sale here). Regardless, British pies with fillings such as leek and mushroom, fish and chicken (including the tikka masala kind!) are both delicious and hearty. And when the weather turns cold as it now has in these parts there’s nothing better than digging into a steaming hot pie.

For my first foray into making British pies I opted for what might be the most archetypal one: Steak and Guinness. There isn’t much to say about this incredibly easy recipe, which is based on elements from here and here, except to advise you to take your time with the braising. Doing it slowly in an oven at a temperature low enough that the stew is barely simmering will yield incredibly tender and flavorful meat.


Steak and guinness pie

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours

Total Time: 3 hours


  • 600 g braising steak, diced into 2 cm wide cubes
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • ¾ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ carrot, peeled and diced
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large yellow onion, coarsely diced
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste (puree) or 1 small tomato, diced
  • 500 ml bottle of Guinness
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4-5 stalks thyme
  • 250 g puff pastry
  • 1 egg, whisked, for glaze
  • small handful parsley, coarsely chopped, for garnish



  1. Preheat oven to 160°C.
  2. Place the steak in a bowl and toss with the salt, pepper and flour.
  3. Heat the oil in an oven safe saucepan or large skillet on high until very hot. Working in batches so as to not overcrowd the pan, cook the meat until browned nicely all over.
  4. Lower heat to medium and add the garlic, onions, carrots, celery and tomato (paste or diced) and stir to mix. Cook for 2-3 minutes and then pour in the Guinness. Stir well, making sure to scrape off any tasty bits stuck on the bottom.
  5. Add the bay leaves and thyme and bring to a simmer. Then cover and transfer to the oven. (If using a skillet transfer to a casserole or baking dish and cover.) Adjust the temperature so that the stew is barely bubbling and braise for 2½-3 hours until the meat is tender.
  6. Remove from the oven and taste for salt. Transfer to a shallow baking dish.
  7. Turn up the oven to 220°C.
  8. Roll out the puff pastry into a thin sheet large enough to cover the dish with 1-2 cm to spare on all sides. Place on top of the dish and crimp around the edges. Using a sharp knife make a crisscross pattern over the surface of the pastry. Brush the surface with the egg wash and bake in the oven until the pastry starts to brown, about 15-20 minutes.
  9. Garnish with the parsley and serve.

Adapted from here and here.

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