This stew is a perfect family dish, especially when the seasons are changing and the kids are heading back to school. You can serve this as a stew or take it one step further and use it as the filling for an impressive pie, topped with flakey pastry. Do make sure the meat is tender before serving; different cuts of meat will take longer cooking times.
Technique tip: All aspects of this dish can be made ahead, the pastry benefits from resting in the fridge, while the meat mix actually improves in flavor after an overnight chill.
Swap option: This recipe works beautifully with a creamy bacon and cabbage filling.
For the filling:1.
Heat the oil in a large pot and brown the meat in two batches (be careful not to overcrowd the pan). Remove and set aside on a plate. Add another drop of oil if you need it and then fry off the onion, carrots and celery. Add the meat back into the pot along with the garlic.2.
Pour in the stock, Guinness, one bay leaf and season to taste. Simmer gently for about 1 and half hours until the liquid has reduced. If the sauce isn't thick enough, strain the juices into a bowl and then transfer to a small saucepan. Mix a little of the sauce with the flour over heat until you have a smooth paste, then whisk through the rest of the liquid. Simmer gently until you have a thickened sauce, then tip back over the meat.3.
Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof baking dish, 8 inches diameter and 2 inches deep.
For the pastry:1.
Put the flour, thyme leaves and butter into a mixing bowl and, using a butter knife, cut the butter into the flour (or use a pastry blender tool) until the mixture looks like rough breadcrumbs and there are still visible lumps of butter.2.
Whisk together the egg, the balsamic vinegar and the sea salt in a small bowl. Add this to the butter and flour, along with the cheese, and using two forks gently toss through until the dough begins to come together. Add a little cold water to bring the dough to a rough ball. Press into a flat circle, wrap in cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.3.
Roll the pastry out on to a floured work surface, until it is large enough to fit the top of the dish. Brush the edges of the dish with a little beaten egg and place the pastry on top of the pie. Brush with a little more beaten egg and cook in the oven for 25 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden.