Last St. Patrick’s Day, I shared a quick and healthy green smoothie, and wrote about my brother Brian, who would have been 46 today. This year, in honor of both Pi Day on Monday, and St. Patrick’s Day, I feel obligated to share Donna Hay’s Beef, Guinness and Mushroom Pie with you all. I have been sitting on this since November, and that’s just ridiculous, since there are so many reasons to make this savory pot pie as soon as you can. (Donna Hay, by the way, is Australia’s version of Martha Stewart, but younger, minus the crafts and the jail time, and I will be writing more about her, and our Donna Hay themed cooking club in my next post.) From one of my new favorite cookbooks, it uses a method for the pastry crust that I’ve never heard of before, but is so much simpler that the traditional cold butter version. It’s a hot water pastry that actually melts the butter with water before stirring it into the flour, which results in a kinder dough. It comes together quickly, is sturdy enough to hold up to a hearty filling, yet still flakes. If you’re intimidated by the idea of making a pie, then this is your crust!!! (Or skip it, buy a pre-made shell from the store, and everyone will still love you for making whatever you stick inside of it. I promise. But to be honest, this is totally worth the extra 10-15 minutes of your life.)
But here’s the thing, you’ll want to get started on cooking your brisket first, because this is not a 30 minute meal. Trimming your meat, cubing it, browning it, and finally braising it is time consuming. It’s the type of activity that you can do while listening to a good story though. (I’m currently enjoying this audio book if you’re looking for something entertaining, which is soon going to be a TV series.) And in its own way, it makes for a relaxing time in the kitchen.And of course, as the name states, this beef becomes tender and slowly cooks at a low heat in a bath of Guinness. And if it’s your thing, your cooking time will probably be even more of an escape if you pour an extra glass for yourself. Honestly, I’d much rather sip on wine while cooking, but beer and brisket are made for each other. Oddly, the only time I seem to buy beer though is at Hanukkah when I make my yearly brisket. But Guinness brings an even deeper flavor to the meat, and I’m tempted to try it next December in my standard recipe. (And it reminds me of one of my favorite vacations of all time: a week driving around Ireland with two girlfriends back in our mid-20’s, where we even went to the Guinness factory, so this feels especially appropriate at St. Patrick’s Day.)
Once the meat browns, you sauté up some onions and garlic, and mix that together with tomato paste which sweetens everything up, along with some Worcester sauce, beef stock and a touch of brown sugar. I cooked my brisket with the Guinness and all the rest over a low flame for a little over three hours, but it’s less about the clock, and more about being able to shred the meat with a fork when it’s done. It needs to fall apart, and there’s a large window of time that can happen in. In fact, the next time I make this I’ll probably take the browned beef with the sautéed onions and throw it all in my slow cooker. Crockpots are made for these slow braises, and you never have to worry about sticking around the house or staying awake while they happen. It means dirtying another pot, but you can also go out and live your life while it does its thing. That’s a win in my book.
Now, to be efficient, in the last 30 minutes of your cook time, it’s time to make your hot water pastry crust. As I said before, it doesn’t take long for it to come together, and then all you have to do is roll out the dough, placing it in your pans. Once that’s done, you add a whole mess of mushrooms to your shredded brisket, which take on the meaty, boozy sweetness they’re cooked with. (Even my kid who doesn’t typically like mushrooms admits they were amazing.)
When I made this, it was the week before Thanksgiving, and not only did I plan to serve it to my supper club girlfriends, but I figured I’d make a second pie, freeze it, and serve it on Black Friday to all of our family that was in from out of town. We had a photo shoot that morning for 13 of us, and I needed to have lunch ready when everyone got back. I knew we would need more than turkey leftovers, and this warm and rich Beef, Guinness and Mushroom Pie ended up being the star of the table. It had frozen beautifully, and just needed to be reheated. Granted, while the extra time it took to double the recipe wasn’t insignificant (there was a lot of time with a knife,) the payoff was huge. If you’ve got time on your weekend and freezer space, I definitely recommend making two. Actually, by doubling the recipe I chose to make one round pie, one loaf pan version, and two individual pies in ramekins. My family definitely appreciated the effort, and keeps asking when we’ll have it next!
As always, details and notes are in the recipe below, but I will be sharing more about why I chose this recipe, my new appreciation for Donna Hay and her gorgeous cookbook The New Classics (where this recipe is from,) and the cooking club meal that let us try six Donna Hay dishes and a fun cocktail to boot. And as a bonus, here’s one of my favorite photographs from our family photo shoot the day I served this Beef, Guinness and Mushroom Pie.
Donna Hay's Beef, Guinness and Mushroom Pie with a Hot Water Pastry Crust is a hearty meal that's a perfect weekend project. You can double it, and make an extra pie for your freezer or a friend. The pastry dough is easy to make, stands up to a heavy filling, and is flaky and buttery. It's definitely worth the effort!
- 3.3 lbs (1.5 kg) of beef brisket, trimmed, and cut into 2" pieces
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1-2 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced (around 2 cups)
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 cups (500 ml) beef stock
- 1 3/4 cups (430 ml) Guinness stout ale
- 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 12 ounces (340 grams) baby bella mushrooms (or regular brown mushrooms), cut into quarters
- 21.5 Tablespoons unsalted butter (300 grams, which means you'll need to have a little less than 3 sticks of butter if that makes it easier for you)
- 1 1/3 cups water (360 ml)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 5 cups (750 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 egg (plus 2 Tablespoons cream if you have it, or milk, or even water if that's all you've got.)
*This is slightly adapted from Donna Hay's cookbook, The New Classics.
**Instead of simmering the meat on top of the stove for 2-3 hours, I think you could put it in a slow-cooker on low heat for 6-8 hours. I haven't tried it, but if YOU do, let me know how it goes!
***If you find you have more filling than room in your pie dish, you can always roll out more dough and bake smaller pies in extra ramekins, and since you probably will have some extra dough this shouldn't be a problem. Or simply eat the filling straight up on its own, cooking it a tad longer if you do so that the mushrooms cook through.
****For freezing: I highly recommend doubling the recipe so that you can bake two pies today, but cool, wrap and freeze one of them to reheat and serve at a later date. If you want to do that, bake both pies normally. When the second pie is cool, wrap it in aluminum foil first, then in a layer of plastic wrap, all the way around it. Finally, put it into a ziploc freezer bag if it fits. If it doesn't, just make sure it is wrapped multiple times, tightly, so that you won't have any freezer burn. When you are ready to have the pie, you should ideally remove it from the freezer the night before to thaw (putting it in the fridge,) and then you can heat it in the oven, only covered by the aluminum foil, not the plastic wrap. In a 350 F oven, bake the thawed pie for 30 minutes, or until it is hot all the way through. If you didn't thaw it, stick it in a 350F oven for 1 hour, checking to see if it is hot all the way through and adding more time if necessary.
*****Use this hot water pastry crust for any other pie you're in the mood for!