This Cape Malay Pepper Steak Pie is inspired by the delicious comforting meat pies (vleis pastei) and chicken pies (hoender pastei) of my childhood. Steak and Kidney Pie and Chicken and Mushroom Pie were essential at our family feast days whether it was Eid at our home, or Christmas at one of my aunt’s homes.
My mum and her sister Josephine each had their own way of making Pepper Steak Pie or Steak and Kidney Pies, and both were equally mouthwatering perfect comfort foods. After I moved to Dubai, Aunty Josie often sent a care package of her Steak and Kidney pie for me with my mum when she visited.
During my childhood my mum always used sago for a thickener in her pies and home made puff pastry for the base and lid. Aunty Josie used this easy Hot Water Pastry, that required chilling but no additional rolling and Bisto gravy granules for the thickener. On the last occasion that I ate Aunty Josie’s pie she mentioned that she no longer added kidney at the request of one of her immediate family, who did not like the flavor or texture.
In recent years my mother often made her pie with the same hot water pastry that Aunty Josie used but recommended that I allow the pastry to chill before doing a few rolls and turns because she preferred how it gave the pastry some lightness.
I remember the taste of my mum and Aunty Josie’s pies and it is very different to the Worcestershire sauce infused British meat pie recipes. To add flavor to the slow cooked steak it is simmered with onion, garlic, fresh thyme, bay leaves, allspice and cloves. Alternately, the steak filling can be pressure cooked and then the gravy reduced before cooling. Our recipe does not include any potatoes, carrots or celery and is pure meltingly tender steak and kidney or mushrooms.
If you have been put off making your own home made Pepper Steak Pie because you think it is too difficult, think again. The best thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t require fancy beef stock or any other ingredients that would not normally be found in a pantry. My mother only ever used good old tap water if she felt a stew or pie filling needed it to stop from catching on the bottom of the pot.
The trick to getting a deep rich gravy is caramelizing the onions until it is a rich caramel brown. That will take anything from 30-40 minutes.
If you don’t want to make the easy 3 ingredient home made Hot Water Flaky Butter Pastry then store bought commercial pastry will do, but I can guarantee it won’t be quite as good 🙂
If beef pies are not to your taste then check out this Chicken and Mushroom Pie or this Tricolor Quinoa Salad with pomegranate, walnuts and feta for a meat free option, or for a seafood option this Chili Garlic Prawn pasta.
Cape Malay Pepper Steak Pie
This home made Cape Malay Pepper Steak Pie is flavorful tender steak cubes in a rich onion and mushroom gravy between layers of buttery flaky pastry.
- 60 ml vegetable oil
- 600 grams onion chopped finely, approximately 2 large onions
- 1.2 kg braising steak cubed
- 24 grams fresh garlic finely grated, approximately 3 large peeled cloves
- 220 grams mushrooms, caps only sliced
- 15 ml fresh thyme approximately 1 tablespoon or 2 sprigs
- 3 bay leaves dried and whole
- 4 allspice berries dried and whole
- 4 cloves dried and whole
- 5 ml salt adjust to personal taste
- 750 ml water or beef stock if you want to be a bit fancy
- 30 ml crushed black peppercorns adjust to personal taste
Optional filling ingredients
- 30 grams bisto granules approximately 4 heaped teaspoons
- 187 ml cooking liquid from the steak filling approximately 2/3 cup
- 6 large eggs hard boiled
Base and lid
- 1 kg flaky butter pastry
- 30 ml cake flour approximately 1 tablespoon
Filling - Cooked in a pressure cooker
Peel and chop the onions and set aside until required.
If the steak is not cubed, cut it into 3 cm cubes. Cut any larger pieces so that all the pieces are approximately the same size.
Heat a medium sized pot on the stove to high heat. When the pot is hot, add one tablespoon of the oil and brown the steak in three or four batches, adding more oil as needed and taking care not to crowd the pot so that it boils instead of browns.
Don't cook each batch for longer than a minute or it will become tough. Remove each batch of browned steak to a clean bowl and set aside until required.
Add the remaining oil to the pot then add the onions, bay leaves, all spice berries and cloves and cook on medium low for 30 minutes.
When the onions are a caramel color add the grated garlic and cook together for another 2 minutes.
Add the sliced mushrooms caps and cook another 8 minutes. By this time the onions will be a deep brown and the mushrooms will be releasing some of their liquid.
Add the browned steak cubes, salt, crushed pepper corns and water to the pressure cooker or pot.
Lock the lid and cook on high for 3 minutes then reduce the heat back down to medium low. The residual heat will pressurize the cooker and when the pressure valve rises start counting the cooking time for 25 minutes only.
After 25 minutes remove the pot from the heat and allow the pressure cooker to depressurize according to the manufacturers instructions.
Check whether the meat is tender and whether the gravy needs to be reduced further. If it looks too watery put it back on the stove without the lid and allow to reduce on medium high until the gravy is like thick cream or follow the optional step.
Filling - Cooked in a pot with a lid
If cooking long and slow follow the first 8 steps but simmer, partially covered, on low for 75-90 minutes until the meat is tender.
If the liquid is reducing too much then add another 1/2 to 1 cup of water to maintain the gravy. If the gravy is too watery then allow to reduce further or follow the optional step.
For both methods, remove the filling from the heat when done and allow to cool completely before filling the pie.
Optional - for both methods
When the meat is tender and you are at the stage of reducing the gravy, add the bisto gravy powder mixed with 1/2 or 2/3 cup of the hot cooking liquid.
Cook on medium low for another 20 minutes until the gravy is shiny and no longer watery. Check the seasoning as the bisto also adds saltiness.
Let the cooked filling cool completely before using or the pastry will melt.
Assembling the pie
Roll out the pastry for the base of the pie and line the pie dish or baking tin with the pastry.
Add the cooled pepper steak filling and top with the sliced hard boiled eggs.
Roll out the lid of the pie and cover the filling. Crimp the edges of the pie for a decorative finish.
Cut a few holes in the lid to let the steam escape during baking and decorate with pastry leaves.
Place the pie into the freezer for 20 minutes before baking.
Heat the oven to 200 degrees celcius or 180 degrees in a thermofan oven / Gas mark 5 / 390 F. Bake the pie for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 180 degrees celcius, fan 160 / Gas mark 4 / 350 F for a further 50-55 minutes until the pastry is golden and cooked through.
This made one large pie using a baking tin 30 cm long, 23 cm wide and 4 cm high.
Use the mushroom caps only and freeze the stems for soups or stocks.
The pressure cooker method is quicker and the meat gets tender but not as soft and melting as the longer slower cooking.
Check the seasoning before adding the bisto as it adds saltiness as well as thickening the gravy.
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