My First Beef and Ale Pie

… is simmering on the hob right now. Can you smell it? There’s a fantastic aroma of beef, ale and mushrooms, with notes of Worcestershire sauce, emanating from the kitchen! Yes, this is my first beef and ale pie. No, it’s actually my first pie ever! …. Oooops actually – no. I did make a shepherd’s pie once or twice, very successfully, if I may add! It was delicious! 🙂 However, I’ve never made a pie with pastry, my own pastry. This is what I’m attempting to do now – make my own pie pastry, as well as the pie filling!

I must admit I was feeling pretty nervous before attempting it. Yes, I like pie, but what else do I know about it, apart from that? – Well, absolutely nothing! But, married to a Brit, I was bound to have to learn how to make one! Plus, it’s his birthday soon, so it’s time to be a good wife – for once! he he! It will make a nice surprise – hopefully!

As for my pie, so far, so good! The filling is simmering happily on the hob, smelling and tasting delicious! I guess the pastry will be the real challenge, since I know I can make a stew (for god’s sake!)! So because it tastes good, I decided to share the recipe with you. The photos will come later, together with my final verdict. I’ll also let you know about my fortunes with pastry making.

The recipe comes from The Dairy Book of British Food, but I adapted it slightly. I’m using a recipe for steak and kidney pie, minus the kidney. Not because I don’t like/won’t cook kidney, but simply because I don’t have any!

The book I’m using has over 400 recipes for every occasion. It contains chapters on regional food, describing the local dishes and produce, and lists annual food fairs and festivals. This recipe comes from the North of England, where the food is “based on dishes suitable for a hard-working community living in a bracing climate” (pg. 56). According the my book, oysters were originally used to flavour the dish, instead of mushrooms, which were the more expensive ingredient at the time. Times have changed considerably, definitely! I would love to know when the dish was first made.

Here’s the recipe! Stay tuned for pastry cronicles, pics and verdicts!

At the moment, it has a lovely dark brown hue and some gorgeous thick gravy that tastes delicious! Perfect for dipping bread in! – Did I say anything about dipping bread? Shhh, don’t tell my husband!

Actually, the recipe is coming later! The time has come – to make the wretched pastry!

Update 2o October: See below for verdict!



Beef and Ale Pie



SOURCE: adapted from The Dairy Book of British Food

PREPARATION TIME: 5 min for the filling, 10 – 20* min for the pastry

COOKING TIME: about 1h 30 min for the filling, + 30 – 45 min for the whole pie

CUISINE: British – a dish from the North

SERVES: 3 – 4 



For the filling:

15 g flour

500 g diced beef

1 tbsp butter

1 large onion

1 clove of garlic

85 g mushrooms (I used chestnut mushrooms) (See note 1)

200 ml beef stock (See note 2)

200 ml brown ale (I used Theakston Old Peculiar)

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (See note 3)

1 tbsp tomato puree (See note 4)

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)


For the pastry:

200 g flour

100 g butter, chilled and diced




Making the filling: :

  •  Sieve and season the flour. Toss the beef in the flour, shake the excess and set aside.

  • Fry the onion, garlic and mushrooms in the butter, until the onions become translucent.

  • Add the beef, and brown.

  • Add all the other ingredients, and simmer gently for about 1 h 15 min. I used too much stock, so I had to leave it uncovered to reduce the liquid. The filling needs to be fairly dry, otherwise it will leak.

Making the pastry:

  • Sieve the flour and stir in diced butter. Rub the butter and flour until the mixture starts resembling to fine bread crumbs. Then, add 60 ml of cold water to form a dough. Mix until the dough is formed.

  • Divide the pastry in to two parts – one smaller and the other larger. Roll them out to fit your pie dish on a lightly floured surface. Rub flour into your rolling pin** to stop the dough from sticking to it.

Assembling the pie:

  • Roll the larger piece of dough gently on your rolling pin, and carry it over to your pie dish. Unroll the pastry over the pie dish, and put the dough inside the dish. Gently press the edges for the pastry to fit the dish.
  • Spoon the pie filling inside the dough.
  • Take a little water and brush the edge of the pastry. Then, put the ‘lid’, i.e. the other piece of dough, on top, and press lightly to seal the edges.
  • If you have some leftover dough, make some shapes and stick them on top of the lid. I had loads of dough left, and I made some leaves.
  • Brush the surface with a little milk. This gives the pie a lovely glaze.
  • Put in the oven at 200 C (Gas mark 6 / 400 F) for 30 – 45 min. That’s it! We’re having it with some mashed potatoes, parsnips, boiled carrots and peas!

* Probably less if you know what you’re doing, so that’s unlike me!

** Shame on you all you dirty-minded people! Like me… ehm…  


Our eclectic dinner. With beers of course!




Delicious! Both hot and cold. We both loved it! And…. I managed to produce a perfectly edible, functional pastry that didn’t leak, didn’t break, and it did taste good! Wow! – And it was so easy! I really loved the golden colour of the pastry!

 I amazed myself completely! I really thought making n’ rolling the pastry would be more difficult, but it really wasn’t! It was very easy and fairly quick to make. Rubbing flour and butter is a little tedious, but it was well worth it! I’m not a pastry wimp anymore! Yeay! Ok, maybe a bit, but definitely less so than before! 😀

I’ll be making this again, so here are a few cooking notes.


1. You can use a bit more mushrooms if you want it more mushroomy. If you like it meaty, like I do, don’t!

2. I think I used too much stock. It was rather watery to start with, but of course, after 1.30 h of cooking, it reduced nicely. Next time I’ll replace some of the stock with more ale! 😉

3. Can do with a bit more Worcestershire sauce.

4. Definitely less tomato puree – 1/2 tbsp next time. Perhaps even less, or none. You see, I like my pies meaty! However, if you’re making the filling as a stew only, then it’s fine.

– It’s quite filling, so bear that in mind!


Make the filling only and serve it as a stew!



I’m sending this post over to Susan at Well-seasoned Cook who is hosting this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging! This recipe features thyme and bay leaf, both of which I grow myself!



Other British recipes on this blog:


Date and nut loaf


Rhubarb Crumble







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Leave a comment


  1. hmm… now I’m interested too! I’ve never eat beef and ale pie. I can’t read the recipe but i’m sure you’ll fix that. Looking forward to the photos and final verdict!


  2. Now, this is comfort food at its best. I make a similar pie in the winter but I usually top it with mashed potatoes. (I have an aversion to making pastry crusts.) But, I think I may have to give it a shot this winter.


  3. Now that you’ve gotten over the hump that pastry is difficult, there are all sorts of wonderful recipes you can get yourself up to. Beautiful, first-time results. Thanks for your WHB entry!


  4. FRESH ADRIATIC FISH, if you’ve never had beef and ale pie, now’s a good time to try it! It’s a great winter warmer indeed! Just make the filling, if you don’t fancy making the pastry. Use any of the Croatian dark beers, it will be fine! I’m sure the men in your family will be more than happy! They usually are when meat and beer are in question!

    SUSAN FROM FOOD BLOGGA, thanks for dropping by! I’m a regular reader of your blog, so it was great to see you here!

    I like your idea of topping this stew with mashed potatoes – for the 2 in one effect! We also had some creamy mash on the side!

    As for the pastry, it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be… Definitely give it a shot! 🙂

    SUSAN, yes, there are numerous possibilities ahead of me now! I shall try more pastry-based dishes! 🙂 Thanks for dropping by!


  5. Great post, and I have to confess right now that I’ve only made pie crust maybe 3 times in my whole life! Yours looks perfect, and for your first time too!


  6. Thank you, Kalyn! It did cost me a lot of nerves, though! However, that was all before I started. Once I got going, I felt fine.


  7. i can smell it alright. true comfort resides in there.


  8. That looks good! I tend to make a HUGE serving of beef stew and then use the leftovers to make pies!


  9. Hi Su-Lin! Thanks for visiting my blog!


  10. robynvickers

     /  26 October, 2007

    OH, this looks simply divine. I lovea good English meat pie and they’re so difficult to find here in North America. I’m definitely be trying this one, especially now that the Autumn weather is calling for such comfy foods! Well done, it looks like it came out perfectly.

    I discovered making pastry only a few years ago and it’s one of my great joys in cooking. I find it so theraputic: the mixing by hand (I always mix the butter in by hand!), the clumping together and especially the rolling out afterwards. Yum!


  11. Hi Robin,

    Thanks for dropping by! Let me know how you like this. It’s one of my favourite pies!

    Btw, you have a great blog!


  12. Mary

     /  3 February, 2008

    The measurements for the pastry were not enough. I had to double it to make a regular size pie.


  13. Sorry to hear about that. I guess it all depends on how big a dish you used. Also, I reduced the sauce quite a bit, so it was fairly dry. I mean, you could pick it up and eat it just like you would a sandwich.

    It was fine for my dish, as you can see from the photo. I even had some leftovers to play with. I think my dish was 20 cm, but I’ll measure it, and put the measurements on the blog. Thanks for the warning!

    Other than the lack of pastry, I hope you enjoyed it.



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