Individual Beef Pies with Caramelised Onions

These mini beef pies are great hot but also went down a treat when I brought them cold for a snack on a busride.

Ingredients:

For the stew:

  • 1kg stewing beef
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 200gr pancetta/bacon cubes
  • 3 tbs flour
  • 500ml beer
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 3 large sprigs of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 750gr pink onions
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 2 tbs coarse mustard
  • 1/2 tsp coarse ground pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika powder

For the pastry:

  • 500gr flour
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 250gr cold butter, cubed
  • 2 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ice cold water, as needed

Makes 16-20 individual pies

Recipe:

Make the stew:
Cut the stewing beef into cubes. Rough cubes for a normal stew, but if you want to use this stew for a pie, cut the pieces smaller (I go for approximately 1x1cm for pies).
Heat the butter in a large stewing pan and bake the bacon until starting to brown well but not quite turning hard. Take the bacon out and brown the beef well in several portions. Do not overcrowd the pan, as the beef will not brown that way, but will release it’s juices and it will boil the meat instead. The beef does not have to cook through, you only want to brown is as much as possible to get that lovely browning flavour into your stew.
Add all the beef to the pan and stir in the flour, stir well to coat the beef. Let the flour brown a bit before adding the bacon, beer, stock, thyme and bay leaves.
Let the stew simmer for 2 hours while stirring occasionally, then start on the onions. Stir the stew more often while you work on the onions, as the stew will have thickened and be more prone to burning.

Peel, halve and slice the onions. Bake them in the butter in a frying pan until they start to brown, then turn down the heat and let the onions sweat on a low heat for 30 minutes. After 15 minutes, add the chopped up garlic (yes, use the whole head. Trust me).
At the end, turn up the heat to brown the onions and garlic a bit more, before adding everything to the beef stew (which will have been bubbling away for 2hr and 45min now). Also add the mustard, pepper and paprika powder.
Stir well and leave everything to simmer and infuse for 15 more minutes. Leave to cool.

Make the pastry:
Combine the flour with the herbs.
Add the cold butter and encorporate it with a pastry cutter or with your hands, making a breadcrumb tecture. You want to heat the butter and flour as little as possible, as you do not want the butter to melt and be absorbed by the flour, which would make your pie crust tough.
Add the egg, salt and sugar and mix this quickly into the dough (handle it as little as possible). Add as much water as needed to have the dough just hold together. It will become wetter while resting and adding flour while rolling will make your crust taste dry. Don’t knead it more than absolutely required, as you want to work the gluten as little as possible.
Push the dough into a disk (this will require less rolling later) and place it in a closed bag. Leave to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge.

Make pies:
Roll the pastry on a floured surface to a thickness of 2mm. Cut enough rounds for 16-20 bases and 16-20 tops. I used deep 7cm round aluminium one-use tins. Line the pie tins, prick the base with a fork and then leave to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge. This avoids shrinkage while baking so don’t skip this step, or the tops might come away and the filling will be much more prone to overflowing.
Herb Flan Pastry1
Herb Flan Pastry2

If you want to eat the pies cold: Add 200-250ml milk to the cold stew before filling the pies. Cold stews tend to be dense and stiff, but this ensures the filling will be nice and moist when eating. For hot pies, leave the stew as it is.
Brush the tops of the pie bases with egg wash, to help the lids stick after filling.
Use an ice cream scoop to fill the pies. This is a very easy way to fill the pies and every pie will have an equal amount of filling. I use a larger scoop, 6cm instead of a regular 5cm scoop (which holds 70% more filling).
Herb Flan Pastry3

Place a lid on each pie, crimp the edges, which you can do in a very nice decorative pattern, or just by pushing a fork on it like I do. Brush the pies with egg was. Make a hole in the top of each pie to let the steam out.
Bake for 25-30 minutes on 180°C.
Herb Flan Pastry4

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