English food is not a joke because...
Any cuisine that combines meat with ale gets gold stars in my book.

That's the answer I'm giving for Sam's Fish & Quips challenge. She's asked food lovers everywhere to help her prove that English food does not have to be a joke. After reading about it, I immediately wanted to participate. I lived there for almost a year and had plenty of amazing food (I have crazy fond memories of the cheese guy in my local outdoor market), however I couldn't come up with one dish that I wanted to make. So I called in the brigades - actually I just IM'd my friend Johnny and asked what he thought I should make:

me: What is your favorite British meal - like quintessential British?

Johnny: Meat pie! Like steak and onion pie!!!
I think this is a nice idea, a nice project - British food has a huge inferiority complex for a few reasons.

me: So what should i make?

Johnny: You should try steak and ale pie if you can manage it. I think it is pretty easy really and tastesome.

me: Why'd you choose that dish?

Johnny: It is the thing I like best that is "English"
Make a nice round pie - with leaves on the top of course.

me: Of course

Hrmm... a steak and ale pie. Funny, I never actually had one of those while I was out there - but I figured it was the time to start. So I hunted down a few recipes and cobbled together a pretty decent pie. I cheated and used puff pastry, but I didn't forget the leaves on top.The end result was pretty tasty, like a stew with an added pastry crust - and it was definitely not a joke. To see what recipe I used, and to see a bunch of step by step pictures,

Steak & Ale Pie
Inspired by BootsnAll

Sorry for the non-accurate measurements, I eyeballed a lot of it. Also, you may want to add a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce to your marinade. I was planning on it, but didn't realize we didn't have any until it was too late.

1 1/4 pounds of steak - cut into large cubes
2 short sprigs of fresh rosemary
3 sprigs of fresh marjoram
1/3 - 1/2 pint of Newcastle (or other dark ale)
olive oil
fresh ground black pepper
flour (approx 4 tbsp)
2 carrots - chopped (Jimmy hates carrots, so I only used a few, you may want to up the carrot ante)
1 leek - chopped
1 medium sized onion - diced
1-2 cup beef broth
Puff Pastry (1 sheet) - thawed

Step One - Night Before

  • Put steak into medium sized bowl with lid (I actually used a tupperware dish). Add rosemary and marjoram (I ripped them with my hands) and mix with meat.
  • Add Newcastle, a splash (I eyeballed it) of oil, and some fresh black pepper. Mix well. Cover and marinate in fridge overnight.

Step Two - Make the Pie

  • Preheat oven to 375F
  • Strain beef from marinade (do not throw out the marinade, set it aside for now). Roll beef in flour until beef is covered. Set aside.
  • In a large pan, saute onion, leek and carrots in a little bit of olive oil. Cook until onions are soft. Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Place beef in pan and brown on all sides.
  • When beef is browned, put the vegetables back in, and add beer marinade, and beef stock.
  • Simmer on medium-low for 10 minutes.
  • Transfer mixture to pie pan/baking dish. Top with puff pastry and trim sides.
  • Pierce pastry a few times for ventilation, add decorative pastry leaves if desired (I used my kitchen shears to shape them).
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes.