The Guinea stands in a mews alongside Berkeley Square. It is an old public house with furnishings that evoke the eighteenth century. Above and behind the barrooms a steakhouse that is nearly as steeped in atmosphere serves good British beef at an exorbitant cost. Do not go there; the steak and kidney pies in the bar are reasonably priced and justly renowned.
Steak and kidney pie lights a spectrum from plain, little more than the steak and kidney bathed in water and austerely seasoned with salt and pepper, to the sophisticated pies served at the Guinea. The Editor’s pie owes a considerable debt to the Guinea, although it does diverge in technique and in its substitution of veal or another milder kidney for the Guinea’s one from an ox, as well as in its inclusion of cayenne, dried thyme and the traditional sublimity of oysters. A pie for six.
For the filling:
- 2 Tablespoons beef dripping if you have it; otherwise unsalted butter
- 2 lb skirt, flank or chuck steak cut into inch square tiles
- about 2 cups sliced mushrooms
- about 1 lb veal, lamb or pork kidney, cored, trimmed and cut into smallish chunks
- about 2 cups onion cut into thin crescents
- 2 heaped Tablespoons flour (preferably Wondra, as usual)
- 2 or 3 bay leaves
- about ½ teaspoon cayenne
- about 1 Tablespoon dry English mustard (like Colman’s)
- about 1 heaped teaspoon dried thyme
- about 1 Tablespoon mushroom ketchup
- about 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire
- about 10 oz good bitter or pale ale
- about 10 oz beef consommé (Canned Campbell’s is fine) or stock
- some minced parsley
- 18 or so oysters (optional but wonderful)
For the pastry:
- 1 lb self-raising flour
- ½ lb shredded suet (Atora is ideal, or shred your own)
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- some more minced parsley
- salt and white pepper
- about ½ cup water; less if possible
- Melt the dripping or butter in a heavy skillet over high heat and sear the beef, then remove it.
- Sear the mushrooms in turn (you may need a little more dripping or butter) and remove them.
- Sear the kidney too and remove it.
- Reduce the heat to medium or medium low and cook the onion until it softens.
- Return the beef, mushrooms and kidney to the skillet and stir the flour into the mix followed quickly by the bay, cayenne, mustard, thyme, mushroom ketchup and Worcestershire.
- Slowly pour the ale into the skillet, increase the heat to high, bring the liquid to a boil and then immediately reduce the heat to medium low before adding the consommé or stock.
- Simmer the filling until the beef is tender, usually in about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Let the filling cool while you make the pastry by lightly, even gingerly combining the ingredients with just enough water to bind them. Too much water or manipulation will create a gooey pastry rather than a delightful light and spongy one. Pat the pastry into a ball, wrap it in plastic and chill it for 30 minutes.
- Add the oysters and parsley to the filling, check for salt and pepper--you may not need salt if using canned consommé but should require some if using most stocks--and dump it into a 9 inch pie pan.
- Bake the pie until the pastry turns pale gold, usually in about 40 to 50 minutes.
-You may elect to use shortcrust pastry, either as a topcrust alone or with the addition of a bottomcrust. The basic bfia recipe appears in both our recipes and in our archive.
-Do not worry if you have no mushroom ketchup. Add a little more Worcestershire or not as you please.
-If for some unfathomable reason you dislike mustard omit it.
-You may elect to bake the filling at 275° instead of simmering it at Step 7. Baking the filling should take about the same amount of time and it does offer surer control of the temperature.
-Some people brush the pastry with some beaten egg or a little milk before shoving the pie in the oven; your choice.