Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Winter is Coming: Bacon Lattice Beef Pie

Winter is coming.
No it really is.  I know it's basically February already but after an unseasonably warm October-December I am finally getting the use out of my winter coat. The last few days the temperature has most definitely plummeted and the ice hail is decidedly unpleasant.

Winter is also coming in another sense though.  Game of Thrones is back soon-not-soon.  This is a time period that is far enough away that I shouldn't really be organising a gathering already in its honour yet here I am, organising away.  This may or may not have been inspired by the fact that RV bought me a copy of the Game of Thrones Cook Book, A Feast of Ice and Fire.  This cookbook was bloody difficult to get hold of but you can normally find copies floating around on Amazon these days.  For any fans of the book, or TV series, you will know that food and drink plays a huge part in creating the right atmosphere from the banqueting tables in the great halls at King's Landing to the cushioned tents on the plains of Essos . George R Martin even ensures that the type of food varies from region to region, from Mutton in Onion-Ale broth on The Wall to Poached Pears in Highgarden.  The cookbook is American and this means translating measurements and cooking temperatures but this isn't too much of an issue.  A bigger issue are some of the ingredients.  One of the most interesting looking recipes is Dornish Snake in Fiery Sauce but when it came to finding fresh rattlesnake in Kent I'll admit I was scuppered.  Numerous people suggested replacing it with chicken but for me that completely defeats the whole point of both the recipe and the culinary experience.
The authors of the cook book are the food bloggers Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer who own Inn at the Crossroads.  The thing that sets this food blog apart from all the others out there is that Chelsea and Sariann spend time researching the recipes in Martin's books in crumbling and dusty old medieval cook books and manuscripts.  Hence the pasty I use in my pie is the recipe that can originally be found in A Propre New Booke Of Cokery, 1545.  How's that for authentic?  Most of the recipes they present are both the medieval version, and a slightly more modern day counterpart which may be a bit truer to how Martin originally imagined the dish in the books.
In preparation for the dinner party I road tested a couple of recipes, starting with the Bacon Lattice Beef Pie from Winterfell.  The recipe book shows the medieval and the modern day version, and I opted to make the modern day version as the medieval looked a bit more like a sweet beefy pork pie than a dinner pie.  I'll be honest -the bacon lattice lid just looked cool as well.
I have translated all the measurements to their UK counterparts.  Sorry if you are reading this from across the pond! These are very specific measurements - I got as close to them as my fairly non-precise scales would allow.

Medieval Pastry Dough:

Pinch of saffron
125 ml water
113g unsalted butter, room temperature
384g plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten.

As a note, my pastry is normally awful as I have hot hands.  This pastry works so well because the water is tepid when you use it, creating a warm dough.  Gently heat the water until warm (barely warm, not hot) and then take off the heat and dissolve the saffron in it (it will dye the water but won't actually disappear).

Rub the butter into the seasoned flour with your fingers until you end up with a crumb like consistency then add the egg yolks and the saffron water.  It doesn't look like there is enough liquid to make a pastry dough but there is.  Incorporate all the ingredients together to make a dough that is yellow in colour and smooth.  Wrap in clingfilm and leave to one side to rest whilst you get on with everything else.  When you do roll it out it will look like this. Make sure you leave a bit of an overhang.
12 strips of streaky unsmoked bacon
28 grams unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and cut into small chunks
1/2 medium potato, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons plain flour
680g stewing beef
236ml good quality beef stock (I've upped this from the original 118ml as my pie was a little dry)
Salt and pepper
Large pinch thyme
Bay leaf
Pre-heat your oven to 200C

First of all, lay out your bacon in a lattice pattern on a baking dish, making sure it is large enough to cover the top of your pie dish.  If it is a little bit larger, that's fine.  Make sure your baking dish has a lip all around the edge or be prepared to clean up dripped bacon fat later.
Cook your bacon near the top of the oven for 15-20 minutes until crispy.  Set aside to cool, leaving the oven on for your pie.

Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat.  Add the onion, carrot and potato and cook gently until the onion is soft and golden.  Toss the beef in the flour until each piece is covered and then add to the vegetables and cook over a low heat until browned all over.  Stir in any extra flour and cook for 1 minute longer.

Add the stock, salt, pepper and herbs and mix well.  Turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes until the gravy has thickened.  Taste and check the seasoning now and adjust if required.  Let the meat mixture cool.
Grease your pastry dish with butter.  Roll out your pastry so it is big enough to line the dish with an overhang and press into the pastry dish, making sure it sits smoothly.  Fill your pasty case with the meat filling and then place the bacon lattice top over the top of it.  If you have any bacon hanging over the edge or spare just break it off, crumble it over and pop it into the pie.
Fold the overhanging dough back over the bacon top, sealing the pie and bake for about 40 minutes or until the crust is golden.
Serve wrapped in furs, with steaming cups of ale served in pewter goblets and wolves lying by the fireplace.


  1. think I will be trying this one really soon! Looks scrummy!

    1. I should have sent the leftovers into the office with Steve for lunch. Let me know how it goes!

  2. That looks yummy! you've got such a lovely blog!