Without prior notice and seemingly from nowhere, a small community of field mushrooms made their recent appearance near the mailbox. When spied by the offspring, topics of discussion ranging from magical creatures (the youngest) to poisonous death (male teen) were triggered. The eldest, who has wisdom (and botanical knowledge) beyond her years, cancelled out both with evidence-based biological explanation and species definition. As the merits of all theories were staunchly argued, my thoughts were galloping in an entirely different direction, one that was leading directly to a beef and mushroom pie.
I’ve never yet met a child who will voluntarily eat a mushroom, and if you know of one this rare phenomenon should be donated to science for DNA cloning, then all further issue would be appreciative of their mother’s cooking. I was one from the genetic masses and could never bear the smell or the taste of the fleshy fungus, yet the mention of a day out ‘mushrooming’ would fill me with excitement. Running along with a bucket or basket and being first to spot a patch was pure delight. Flipping the caps over and waiting for adult confirmation of edibility before cutting and collecting was all part of the process. Sunny days, with a chill in the air, meant coats and red cheeks. Boots of course, as the recent rains responsible for coaxing up those crops had left the paddocks moist and spongy. Happy and weary at the end of it all, but not remotely interested in the catch that some poor individual (my mum) had to clean and slice later that night.
Now I am that cleaning and slicing individual. An individual with an adult palate who adores mushrooms in pies.
A close inspection of your garden or neighbourhood may reveal similar treasures and if they do, here is a wonderful place to stow them:
2 tbsp olive oil
1kg blade or chuck steak trimmed of fat and cut into 4cm cubes
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper
250 ml beef stock
400g can crushed tomatoes
250g mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thickly
2 sheets ready rolled puff pastry
1 lightly beaten egg to glaze
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pan over medium to high heat. Brown meat in batches. Transfer cooked meat to a plate and set aside.
Add remaining oil to pan over medium heat and add onion, stirring until softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle flour over and cook for a further minute.
Add the stock and mix in any residue from the base of the pan. Return beef to pan and add tomatoes. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.
Stir in the mushrooms and simmer, uncovered for 45 minutes until beef is tender and sauce has thickened.
Transfer mixture to ovenproof pie dish(es) and leave to cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Cover the pie(s) with pastry sheets and trim and press edges together. Brush with beaten egg and cut slits in the top to allow steam (and some gravy to escape).
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until pastry is golden. (Depending on the size of your pie dish of course, this recipe will produce up to two family pies)
Postscript: and should your garden or your botanical confidence be lacking, it’s a quick, even magical, trip to the local supermarket….