Monday, March 19, 2012

A Weekend of Irish Weather: Steak and Stilton Pies and Soda Bread

May you always have walls for the winds,
a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire,
laughter to cheer you, those you love near you,
and all your heart might desire.

It felt like Ireland this past weekend, with all the wind, rain and hail, and it's still raining this Monday morning. However, rainy days are ideal days to spend in the kitchen, and that's what I did most of Saturday, preparing a small St. Patrick's Day dinner, and Sunday, making a pot of soup.

I had seen these English Steak and Stilton Pies in Saveur back in October, and they resurfaced in my brain on Saturday morning as an option for our St. Patrick's Day dinner. Although English in origin, the combination of beef, Stilton, and vegetables, all bathed in a rich stout and beef gravy, and topped with a buttery puff pastry crust, sounded comforting on a rainy St. Paddy's day. You could easily substitute lamb for the beef, and even add some potatoes, for a more traditional Irish dish.

I set up Trapper puppy's pen in the breakfast nook so he could see me, turned on some Irish music, poured a glass of Sparkling Shiraz, and started chopping and sauteing. Of course, Dooley was also there, sprawled out across the kitchen floor in his usual spot. Once everything was in the pot simmering, I had time to make a loaf of Irish Soda Bread.

You can use 6" pie tins per the recipe, ramekins or bowls. My only option was these lion's head bowls, and they worked just fine. You're also supposed to cut the pastry into rounds, but I cut the dough into squares, and just scrunched it up for a more rustic look. I also made a few adjustments to the recipe, adding a little more carrots and celery, and reducing the onions, rosemary, and cheese. The flavor of the cheese was still pronounced, but I think it would have been overbearing with the full 6 ounces. For the stout, I was able to snag the last bottle of Speedway Stout off the shelf.

Steak and Stilton Pies
Slightly adapted from Saveur
Makes 4 individual pies


1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1" cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 medium yellow onions, sliced
3 ribs celery, thickly sliced
3 small carrots, thickly sliced
1 tablespoon minced rosemary
1 12-ounce bottle stout beer
1/4 cup cup flour
2 cups beef stock
2 teaspoons mustard powder
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
10 ounces mushrooms, quartered 
4 ounces English Stilton (or other blue cheese or Gorgonzola), crumbled
1 10-ounce package frozen peas
1 sheet puff pastry from 14-oz. package puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, lightly beaten


Heat oil in an 8-quart dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season beef with salt and pepper, cook until browned, 10–12 minutes, and transfer to a bowl. Add garlic, onions, celery, carrots, and rosemary to pan, and saute until soft, 10–12 minutes. Add beer, and allow to reduce until all the liquid is absorbed, 18–20 minutes. Add flour and stir until smooth. Return beef to pan, and add stock, mustard powder, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, cover partially, and cook for 1½ hours.  Turn off head and set aside.

Heat butter in a 10″ skillet over high heat. Add mushrooms and saute until browned, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms, peas and cheese to the beef filling.

Heat oven to 375° F. Divide beef filling among four ramekins or 6" pie tins (12 ounce capacity). Roll pastry into a 14" square; cut out four pieces. Brush ramekin or tin edges with egg, and place one piece of pastry over each.  Press to seal.  Cut a couple slits into pastry and brush with egg. Bake until browned, about 40 minutes.  Allow to cool 5-10 minutes and serve.

Irish Soda Bread and a few St. Paddy's Day decorations

Irish Soda Bread
Slightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa


4 cups all-purpose flour (I used 2 cups all-purpose and 2 cups whole wheat)
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup currants
1/2 cup Irish Whiskey (optional)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the currants and whiskey and heat on high for 45 seconds. Set aside.

Combine the flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.

With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Drain the currants and mix into the dough. The dough will be very wet.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared baking sheet and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.

Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

For a spur of the moment St. Patrick's Day dinner, this was just about perfect.  Now, PLEASE stop raining!


Mary Hirsch said...

Oh my goodness gracious......I was knocked out by your St. Patrick's Menu. I am going to go back and try again. I love Saveur and will dig up that old magazine copy. Didn't you use those bowls for your French Onion Soup? And, your Irish Soda Bread display.....beads and all. Fabulous. I'm already happu I subscribed to your Blog. Mary Hirsch

Cher Rockwell said...

Absolutely beautiful - both the steak pie & the bread.
Will have to bookmark the steak pie - that looks like a perfect Sunday afternoon dinner option.

MelissaKav said...

I'm not quite sure how I stumbled upon your blog (Quinoa something I think?) but I love it! Coronado is my hometown (although I am there now only in my heart and 2x a year for visits) and I love reading/seeing your menus and pictures of the local spots (Love Leroy's!) My husband is from Ireland and I thought I might offer a belated dessert for your next St. Paddy's feast. The Chocolate Guinness Goodness"( absolutely divine and a great ending to an Irish themed feast!

HolliDe said...

WOW! These recipes - BOTH of them - sound ahhh-mazing! And I love your modifications to the recipes. I'd probably do it your way. Your photgraphic and culinary skills are so inspiring to me, mon amie... <3