Individual beef & Guinness pot pies

BeefGuinnessPie © J Horak-Druiff 2010


Is it just me or does it seem like just the other day that we were joyously welcoming the first fruits of summer into our kitchens? I remember going blackberry picking with Mowie and Bruce at the start of the summer (which turned into wild cherry and wild plum picking too!) as if it was last weekend.  But the slow disappearance of locally-grown summer fruit from the stores and the damp, increasingly dark greyness that I awake to in the mornings tell a different story.  Summer has moved on, the longest night is not far off, and I feel in need of comfort.

Comfort food is a winter concept to me: somehow you don’t seem to need comfort as much in warm weather.  Oh sure, we’ve all found ourselves at 2 a.m. after a messy breakup with a lover, sitting on our kitchen floor with an empty carton of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream next to us and a gooey spoon in our hand, right?  No?  Really? OK, just me then.  Oops. Overshare :o)

But it is true that when you look at lists of a nation’s favourite comfort foods, there is a definite leaning towards dishes best served in the winter, as if warmth and comfort are inextricably linked.  For some people, comfort lies in sweet things: a treacle sponge; a sticky toffee pudding; a gooey chocolate cake; or an apple crumble with custard.  For others, like me, it’s savoury foods that provide the most comfort:  Creamy mashed potato with gravy; a fragrant bowl of Thai curry; tartiflette; a buttery, flaky pie; or a rich stew that scents my entire house as it cooks.

So in these grey days of Autumn with the clocks about to go back (sob!) and consign us to coming home from work in the pitch darkness, I decided it was time for a double whammy of comfort: a rich stew and a flaky pie, all in one delightful package!  The filling for this pie is my standard recipe for beef & Guinness stew, but spooned into small ramekins, topped with puff pastry and baked. The end result is pretty enough to serve to guests, yet packed with all the comfort you need: gooey and stewy in all the right places; crispy and flaky in all the right places.  It’s a dot of pure, comforting bliss in the grey fog of Autumn :)

If you like this recipe, you might also be interested in my Boeuf Bourguignon, my twice-cooked oxtail stew, or my venison pie with dried peaches.




1kg chuck steak (or brisket or stewing steak) cut into 4cm cubes
3 Tbsp plain flour for coating
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion sliced
3-4 carrots, thinly sliced
2 celery sticks, thinly sliced
150g button mushrooms, roughly chopped
2tsp sugar
1tsp English mustard
1 Tbsp tomato puree
1×3 inch strip of orange rind
600ml Guinness or other dark stout
bouquet garni (bundle of herbs including parsley, thyme and a bay leaf)
salt & pepper
a roll of ready-made puff pastry


Season the flour with salt and pepper and toss the beef cubes in the flour mix to coat. I usually mix the flour with salt and pepper in a Ziploc bag and toss the cubes in the bag. Heat 2 Tbsp of oil in a large shallow pan and cook the meat in batches till lightly browned. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Add the remaining oil to a large, cast-iron casserole dish. Over medium heat, cook the onion till well-browned, stirring occasionally and adding the carrot and celery towards end. Stir in the sugar, mustard, tomato puree, orange rind, Guinness and seasoning. Add the bouquet garni and bring to the boil. Return meat and any juices to the dish. If necessary, add water to ensure that the meat is covered.

Cover dish tightly and simmer very gently for 2-2.5hrs until meat very tender. About half an hour from the end of the cooking time, add the chopped mushrooms.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C.  Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thickness.  Lightly mark circles on the pastry, using the ramekins that you plan to bake the pies in.  Cut circles that are slightly larger that the circles you have marked (so that they will overhang the edges of the ramekin).

Spoon the stew (emember to remove the orange rind and bouquet garni first!) into 4-6 ovenproof ramekins and cover each ramekin with its pastry lid.  Press the pastry lightly down along the edges to seal. To guard against spills in your oven, place the ramekins on a baking tray.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes or until the pastry is puffy and golden.  Serve immediately with some green vegetables and a hearty red  wine (an Argentinean Malbec or South African Shiraz would do nicely!).


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  1. says

    I recognize the cutlery! ;o) Comfort food for me usually is also associated with stews etc. in the winter time. Somehow I need extra comfort when it’s cold outside. I am so loving this, especially the orange rind!

  2. says

    I wish I had one of those yummy looking pies in front of me right now – would really hit the spot on this drizzly evening. You’ve got me inspired to make some soon. Px

  3. says

    Comfort food like this is good any time of the year, except perhaps 40 degrees summer. I could polish off one of those quite easily today!

  4. Soneika says

    Oooh, believe it or not, I made a traditional chicken pot pie today and posted a photo in my food blog with much the same comment! :) It sometimes does feel incredible just how people share an emotional state, even living in different countries :)

  5. says

    It feels like just yesterday when we were in that kitchen of yours and picking all that wild fruit (still can’t get over that!). Let me know about your Typepad questions hon, figured the design aspect out (finally!) and happy to help… email or call. Big hug x

  6. says

    You are absolutely right, Jeanne! Comfort food needs to be warm and creamy, gooey and rich and nothing made for summer quite lives up to the name. Excellent description and this pie is luxury and comfort all rolled into one. Stew and pastry, boy did you get it so right! And I love the recipe, can smell and taste it now…. oooh I need an idea for dinner tonight. This will perk up the grouchy old man in a minute!

  7. says

    Stews and pies are the best in winter , I guess that is one redeeming thing about winter , going into pups and having a pie and chips .. even better with a beef ( but that might just be me ) , If you can sit by the window in the pub and watch the world go by… even better

  8. says

    pies. other than mud pies and cow pies, i don’t think there are any that i don’t love. these cute little single serving batches look awesome, jeanne–the filling is just incredible!

  9. says

    There really IS something to the notion that in the winter we sort of hibernate and eat more and in the summer we eat lighter and take it off a little. I think it’s part of the Circadian rhythyms or something.
    These little pot pies look amazing. The crust flaky light and delicious – the filling rich and satisfying. Thank you.

  10. says

    Yup, agreed – winter definitely has me reaching for the comfort foods! I like ’em sweet & savoury, so I get a double helping of the winter pounds too. Oh well. It’s all worth it, when faced with something as delicious-looking as this guinness & beef pie.
    PS: Don’t you just love the amazing depth of flavour you get from using beer in cooking?