Tuesday 5 August 2014

Reci-pie Review: The Great British Steak Pie Bake Off

#TeamMary Pie

I am currently very VERY excited, and you should be too.

Why? Because the new series of Great British Bake Off is nearly here! To keep myself occupied while I wait impatiently, I’ve been conducting a reci-pie review in honour of the two great baking deities that are Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.

Yes, you read that correctly, I tested out two pies at once this time. It was the battle of the baking legends… Mary Berry vs Paul Hollywood in the GREAT BRITISH STEAK PIE BAKE OFF!

Re-live the pielights of British Bake Off 2013's finale with their Picnic Pie Challenge! See all the pies and our Pierate analysis in our article "Great British Bake Off - The Final: Pie Review Tweets"

Winner Frances Quinn's Picnic Pie - Screenshot from BBC

#TeamPaul Pie

The recipes:
It was difficult to choose which pies I wanted to bake because between them Mary and Paul have a pretty extensive baking repertoire. For a fair comparison I chose two steak pies – Mary Berry’s steak and mushroom and Paul Hollywood’s meat and potato.

Mary Berry’s steak and mushroom pie – from Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook, p. 224

The filling:
I large onion, chopped
750g stewing steak, cut into 1 inch pieces
30g plain flour
½ pint beef stock
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
500g mushrooms

The pastry:
Shortcrust pastry, brushed with beaten egg

The method:
Fry the onions and brown the steak, then add the flour and cook for a few minutes. Then add the stock, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and simmer for 2 hours. Add the mushrooms and simmer for a further 30 minutes before leaving the filling to cool. Meanwhile, make the shortcrust pastry. Use a thin strip around the edge of the pie dish, then top the pie with the rest –(use a pie bird in the middle). Cut off the excess pastry and crimp the edges, make sure there’s a hole in the top for the steam to come out and then brush the pastry with beaten egg. Cook at 200 degrees C for 30 minutes. 

Paul Hollywood’s meat and potato pie – from Paul Hollywood’s Pies and Puds, p.92

The filling:
2 large onions, chopped
700g chuck steak (braising steak), cut into 1 inch pieces
400g waxy potatoes, cut into small chunks
400g floury potatoes, cut into small chunks
Salt and pepper

The pastry:
Suet pastry 

The method:
Put the onions, steak, salt and pepper in a pan, with just enough water to cover them. Simmer for 1 ½ hours, then add the potatoes and simmer for another ½ hour or until the potatoes are cooked. Pour off some of the liquid to use as gravy (leave enough so that the mixture still has some sauce) then leave the filling to cool while you make the pastry. Use a thin strip around the edge of the pie dish, then top the pie with the rest, cutting off the excess pastry and crimping the edges. Make a hole in the top for the steam to come out then cook at 200 degrees C for 30-40 minutes then rest for 10 minutes before serving.

The Seven Cs:

Both pies scored very highly in this category, with Mary’s pie turning golden brown and Paul’s a slightly darker brown. Both kinds of pastry looked crispy and appetising.

Mary’s pie scored slightly higher here, as the gravy in this pie was a little bit thicker than Paul’s, and the Worcestershire sauce made it taste just that little bit nicer. However Paul’s does give you extra gravy to pour all over your pie/mash/chips/peas/beans/whatever, which is a bonus, so again it was pretty close.

I hate to say it, but neither Paul nor Mary scored very highly here because both recipes call for a top crust only. Technically there was plenty of filling in the pie dish, but I’m writing for pie purists here so I’m going to have to deduct some points for the lack of pastry bottom and sides. 

Luckily, Paul and Mary have redeemed themselves here with top marks. The beef in both pies is deliciously soft and melts in your mouth, the mushrooms in Mary’s pie and the potatoes in Paul’s pie add an interesting texture and the onions in both are soft and melty and delicious. I kept eating both fillings while I was waiting for them to cool because they were so tasty.

There really isn’t much in this. Both pies are very reasonable, with only a few ingredients that aren’t store-cupboard staples (in fact as I usually have mushrooms, onions and potatoes for other recipes the only things I needed to buy were beef and suet). You also get massive pies so you can either feed all your friends and family or hang onto the leftovers for future meals, so you’re going to get good value either way.

I’ll be honest, neither of these scores points for originality, but the classics are classics for a reason. Both pies are delicious. In our house Mary Berry won (but only just) because we liked the gravy in her pie better, but no self-respecting pie fan is going to turn their nose up at either of these.

Both pies came out of the oven looking beautiful, and they held together really well when we served them. Top marks for both.

And the winner is…
I’m just not sure I can choose – it’s going to have to be one of those rare Bake Off weeks where no contestants are sent home. When I tasted the fillings I was pretty sure Mary had won this one – I cannot oversell that delicious gravy. Unfortunately the competition was made more complicated when I tried the pastry…don’t get me wrong, I love shortcrust pastry on a pie, but Paul’s suet pastry was just so golden and crispy, with such a lovely flavour from the beef suet, that I kept going back to both pies for more!

I’d definitely encourage you to try these pies and see which you think is best, though I bet you won’t be able to choose either! To be honest, I think the ultimate pie would use Mary’s filling with Paul’s pastry – which just goes to prove that they make as good a partnership when it comes to pie as they do when it comes to Bake Off judging!

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  1. Neither of these are real pies though - stew in a dish with a pastry lid isn't a pie!

    1. Thanks for your comment Keef! We totally agree with you about a stew with a pastry lid being... well... a stew with a pastry lid! Unfortunately as we were following recipes made by Mary and Paul, we can't control the fact they suggested top crust pies. We personally would always line the dish with pastry to make sure they are fully encased and if you keep reading our blog you will see many times we state this! Unfortunately even Mary and Paul make schoolboy errors sometimes - and calling a stew with a pastry lid a pie is certainly a schoolboy error in our eyes!!!


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