Steak and Kidney Pie

The first time I ever had steak and kidney pie was at Ffiona’s on Kensington Church Street in London. This tiny restaurant is known for its delicious classic English dishes, so I figured if I was going to have the pie anywhere, that was the place to do it. I was so right. After I was done, Ffiona herself (who was waitressing that night–she’s a hands-on owner) hurried over and asked me how I’d liked the pie. I told her it was fantastically delicious.

“I’m so glad,” she said. “I always ask Americans that order it how they liked it, because usually they don’t want to eat anything with organs in. I had one man come in and order it and he absolutely cleaned his plate. When I asked how he liked it, he said it was excellent, but his didn’t have any kidney beans!”

The necessaries

Steak: The meat’s essentially braised in this dish, so stewing meat works just fine. You can also use meat that’s already been cooked–for me this recipe was a way of using up the remainders of our Sunday roast. If you like, you can also use lamb.

Kidneys: Not necessarily easy to find, even over here, but if you have a halfway decent butcher near you, give them a call and see if they can get some for you. It doesn’t really matter what kind of kidney you use–I’ve seen some recipes that call for ox kidneys, others lamb. I used lamb because that’s what the butcher had. 3 or 4 of them should do the trick, but you can always use more or less, if you want to.

Stock: I always recommend a good stock when you’re cooking. Some people use bouillon cubes, but I find them incredibly salty and fake-tasting. Why ruin a beautiful supper with sub-par ingredients? If you’re feeling adventurous, try and get some bones and make your own stock. Our butcher handed me some lamb bones for free, so it never hurts to ask. If you can’t find bones, make a vegetable stock–it’s super easy, and you probably already have the ingredients in the kitchen anyway. Otherwise, grab a decent pre-made stock from the grocery. Beef is best for a true steak and kidney pie, but I used lamb stock because that’s what I had and that worked just fine. And a vegetable stock would work as well; it just wouldn’t have a very robust flavor.

Steak and Kidney Pie

1 lb stewing beef (or lamb, if you want to do a lamb and kidney pie)
3-4 lamb’s kidneys
40g plain flour
cooking oil
knob of butter
250g mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (optional)
1 onion, halved and sliced
1T tomato paste
500 ml stock
3 sprigs thyme
bay leaf
2T Worcestershire sauce
500g puff pastry, chilled
1 egg, beaten

Cut each kidney in half lengthwise. See all that hard white stuff in there? You don’t want that–it’s like cartilage. Cut it out using either nail scissors or kitchen shears, but try not to completely butcher the kidney while you’re at it. If there’s any membrane on the outside of the kidney, remove that too. It should peel off fairly easily. Dice the kidneys.

Season a bit of the flour in salt and pepper and dredge the kidneys and the meat (if it’s uncooked). Shake off excess flour. Heat some oil in a large saucepan or casserole on the hob over medium. Brown the meat and kidneys in batches and remove to a plate. Once that’s done, add a bit more oil if necessary and brown the mushrooms, if you’re using them. Set them aside with the meats.

Add the butter to the pan and fry the onions over medium-high heat, until soft and browned. Add the tomato paste and the remaining flour and mix well. Gradually stir in the stock and whisk to break up any lumps. Bring to the boil and stir for a few minutes, until it starts to thicken.

Return the meats and onions to the pan and add the thyme, bay leaf, and Worcestershire sauce. Partially cover and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is tender and the sauce is thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Set aside to cool a bit, so it doesn’t melt the puff pastry.

Scoop the filling into a deep pie dish. Roll out the puff pastry and lay it gently over the filling, trimming around the edge. Cut a few slits in the top for steam to get through and put the pie in the fridge for 20 minutes to cool and firm up.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/180 fan/Gas 6/400 degrees F. Brush the top of the pie with beaten egg and place it in the oven. Slide a baking sheet underneath it to catch any drips. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the filling bubbles and the top is golden. Let sit for 10-15 minutes so the bubbling starts to calm down and dig in!

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