Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Beef and Cheddar Pies

We had braised beef for dinner a few nights ago, and the leftovers were destined for the freezer, until it occurred to me to use them to make a pie filling. The beef had been braised in caramelized onions and beef stock, a take on French onion soup. The simplicity of this base allowed me to use a variety of vegetables in the pies.

To make the pastry I used the last of the cream cheese, along with butter as the fat. I added some cheddar cheese to the filling before covering it with the pastry.

At the last minute I decided to make the pies individual, cooking and adding the last three mushrooms to some of the pies (we are not all mushroom lovers!)

Make the pastry first, so that it has enough time to rest before being rolled out. Make the filling while the pastry rests; if you can allow enough time for the filling to cool before assembling the pies, that is even better.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix to combine:

3 ounces cream cheese
11 ounces butter


1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour

Mix on low speed until a dough starts to form.

Place the dough onto a lightly floured counter, and gently knead just enough to form a ball.

Divide into 2 equal pieces, form each into a disc and wrap well in plastic wrap.

Place in the refrigerator to rest.

Using a bit of olive oil, cook the vegetables until they start to soften and colour slightly:

1 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 carrots, diced
2" piece of zucchini, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Add enough flour to coat all of the vegetables well.

Cook, stirring for 2 - 3 minutes.

Add beef stock. The leftover braised beef had liquid with it, so I added:

1/2 cup beef stock

Cook, stirring, until the mixture starts to boil, and you have a thick sauce coating the vegetables.


2 cups shredded braised beef, along with any liquid

Bring the filling to a boil, and add more beef stock if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Stir in:

2/3 cup frozen peas

Turn the oven on to heat up to 400F.

Divide the filling between 5 individual  ovenproof dishes.

Top each one with sliced cheddar cheese.

Divide one of the pastry discs into 5 pieces, roll each out to 1/8" - 1/4" thickness.

Cut out a piece slightly larger than the dish.

Top each dish with a piece of pastry. Decorate the edges, and cut slits in the centre to allow steam to escape.

Brush the pastry with egg wash.

Place the pies on a baking sheet, and bake until the filling is bubbling, and the pastry is crisp and golden. This took about 30 minutes. Allow the pies to cool slightly before serving, as the filling will be incredibly hot, and you don't want any burnt mouths at your table!

  • This pastry is very forgiving, and harder to overwork, which is one less thing to worry about. The cream cheese adds richness, creaminess and flakiness. The amount of cream cheese can be doubled, just reduce the amount of butter so that the total amount of cream cheese and butter remains 14 ounces. Spreadable or brick cream cheese can be used.
  • The butter should be cold but not hard, and you want to mix it with the cream cheese until they are just combined, not light and fluffy. If your butter is salted, omit the salt...together with the salt in the cheese there will be more than enough for your dough.
  • Add flavour to the pastry by adding chili flakes or ground black pepper, spices such as cumin, cinnamon or nutmeg, chopped fresh herbs or grated Parmesan.
  • The dough can be frozen, or kept in the refrigerator for 2 - 3 days. 
  • Use this pastry recipe for making sweet or savoury pies, quiche or canapes.
  • When making the meat filling I used only a small amount of beef stock initially, adjusting it after adding the leftover braised beef and liquid. You are looking for a thick gravy consistency.
  • The pie can be made as one large pie, with only a top crust, or with a double crust if that is what you prefer.
  • The choice of cheese (or no cheese) is personal. Blue cheese would also be a good choice with the beef, so would a smoked cheese.
  • As I mentioned, I cooked some sliced mushrooms and added those to some of the pies. Other vegetables that can be added included cooked chopped spinach or kale, potato or sweet potato, red peppers, rutabagas.
  • If you do not have cooked beef use ground beef, adding it to the vegetables once they have started to colour. Continue to cook until the beef is no longer pink, and then continue with the recipe, adding the flour and stock.
  • Other leftover cooked meat can be used, just use an appropriate liquid...chicken stock, vegetable stock or milk. Other liquids such as red or white wine and beer can be used as part of the liquid as well.
  • Leftover turkey from Thanksgiving or Christmas, roast chicken or pork, even fish can be used instead of beef. Use herbs and spices that will work with your meat...sage, rosemary or thyme with turkey or chicken; dill and lemon with fish.

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