This part of the trilogy (part 1 was the pastry) will describe how to make the filling of the pie, obviously this is the reason for the pie in the first place. What is shown here is my interpretation of the filling that I got from a web site, you can change things up, that is the beauty of this recipe, it will fit almost any taste. I’ll also talk about replacing the minced beef with a vegetarian option that we can get here in the States, there must be other options elsewhere.
What you need?
- Minced beef or veggie mince
- You will need about 1 lb (453 grams) of mince to make around 4 pies (the 5″ versions) or 1 9″ pie.
- Mince (here in the States) is sold in various forms where they specify the fat content, 20%, 15%, 10%, I have used the 15% and 20% versions with equal success.
- I use frozen peas and carrots (chopped), some recipes have celery (yuk), you want something to add some bulk to the mince. You’ll need about 1 lb (453 grams) of vegetables but you can add more if you wish.
- Onions (duh!)
- I like a lot of onion in the mixture, probably 2 – 3 medium sized is about right.
- Oil to fry the onions (not much)
- Spices, again you can vary what you use here, I made a pie once that had crushed chilli peppers and cayenne pepper (that was interesting). Just add as much or little as you like, tasting is a good idea, put in a little, stir, taste and repeat.
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- Bay leaves, 2 or 3 leaves
- Parsley, 1 -2 teaspoons
- Basil, 1 -2 teaspoons)
- Oregano, 1 -2 teaspoons
- Thyme, 1 teaspoon
- Beef broth
- This is optional but it does add even more flavour to the mixture, use this instead of the water.
- Ahhh, Bisto
- This is an instant gravy mix used in the UK. The interesting thing is that it is 100% vegan, so you can use this in the veggie version. This also adds thickness to the mixture.
- Colman’s mustard
- Or any strong mustard but this is the best. I have used the pre-prepared version and the mustard powder that I mix myself.
- Worcestershire sauce
- I don’t use this in my recipe but lots of others do.
You’ll need a nice large pot to cook everything in and a large workplace to chop etc., a couple of jugs to mix the bouillon and gravy mixtures, a mortar and pestle to grind the thyme.
First let’s get the onions going, chop the onions and add a little oil to the pan and start frying them slowly, you want them to be soft but not mushy.
While the onions are frying you can get get the bouillon, OXO and Bisto ready. Boil about 1 pint (473 millilitres) of water and mix in the cubes, add as much as you feel you need to get the flavour. Also boil about half a pint of water and mix up about 2 to 3 tablespoons of Bisto.
Prepare the thyme, basically take about a teaspoon of thyme and mash it up in the mortar and pestle, I got this bronze one from Cyprus when I was there a couple of years ago, very useful, don’t worry if you can’t do this it just means that you’ll have bits of thyme in the mixture. The idea is to break this down to nearly a powder (but not quite), as you grind this down you’ll start smelling the real flavour that you have just released!
Now for the meat (or the veggie meat), I try to use fresh (not frozen) beef mince, it just tastes better.
So, once the onions are soft (not mushy) you can add the mince meat to the pot, break it down and cook on a low to medium heat so that the meat has browned.
If you are using veggie meat use a low heat and just break it all apart, you don’t have to cook the veggie meat as much because it is already cooked (as such) and over cooking it now will just dry it out.
Now you can add the bouillon and Bisto mixtures to the pot, this should be enough to cover the meat, carry on mixing and breaking down the mince until it is all consistent with not too many large lumps of meat. Now you can add the vegetables, spices, bay leaves, mustard and a little salt and pepper.
Now you let it cook for about 45 minutes on a low (very low) heat after the mixture has come to a boil. During the cooking process I take note of the thickness of the mixture, you want it to be a little runny but not too thin because it needs to hold itself together when it is in the pie.
If the mixture is too thick you can simply add a little water, if it is too thin you have a couple of options. Add a little more Bisto to the mixture this will thicken it up and add a little more flavour, or you can add some plain white flour a little at a time mixing it in thoroughly to ensure that you do not have any lumps.
The most important thing is to taste it, this is the only way that you’ll know that the mixture is good. Keep an eye on pot during cooking and stir frequently to ensure that the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan. This is the final result.
Let the mixture cool down and transfer it to a container ready for constructing the pies. I tend to make the filling and the pastry before the day I actually bake the pies, so the filling goes into the fridge for the night, this makes the filling more solid and easier to work with.
That’s all there is to it, the next post will show you how to put everything together.