Season 1 episode 3: Lord Snow
Storytime with Old Nan
Season 6, episode 4: Book of the Stranger
Better days and Old Nan's pies...
When Old Nan wasn't telling little lords tales of the Long Night or keeping young Hodor out of trouble, she was busy making excellent pies for the lords and ladies of Winterfell. For House Stark, whose words are 'Winter is Coming' Old Nan was an important part of the Stark household, a keeper of two most powerful weapons, for there is nothing like a good story and a good pie to keep the bitterness of winter at bay. And as the Night King marches toward Winterfell at the end of season 7, don't we all wish the Starks had paid more attention to some of Old Nan's scary stories about the Long Night and those pale spiders big as hounds?
But the Brothers of the Night's Watch also know a thing or two about bitter winters. Manning a 700 foot ice wall is no easy task, but a good soup and good ale can keep one going through many a cold night. Sadly, the Night's Watch ale is apparently pretty terrible (priorities, brothers, I mean really!) but luckily, a bad ale can easily be turned into a decent soup. Turn that soup into a family sized pie (AS BIG AS HOUNDS!) and it can get downright cozy - even at Castle Black, right there at the foot of a literal wall of ice. This week we celebrate the sweet reunion of Sansa and Jon at Castle Black with a hearty, family-sized Beef and Ale Pie with Peas and Onions, a taste of happier times at Winterfell and a pie worthy of Old Nan herself.
We've seen that House Stark has quite a history with pie, but unlike Arya, Old Nan baked her pies with a little more love and less revenge. A great big pot of beefy stew is a wondrous thing, stretching tough cuts of meat and vegetables into a hearty and satisfying meal. Old Nan used kidneys for her pies, but this recipe uses tender chuck roast rounded out with mounds of mushrooms, carrots, peas and onions. Instead of the terrible ale from Castle Black, we use yummy pints of Guinness for our broth which makes a wonderful rich gravy - and one mustn't forget about the gravy! - and is also very good to drink with a beef pie. A lid of homemade rough puff pastry for the flakiest of golden crust (although it can be replaced with your favorite pre-made frozen pie crust, if you must) and you will find yourself feeling warm and cozy and satisfied, even perhaps during The Long Night to come. This is deep rooted home cooking, and it can bring back memories of kitchens and people long gone. Topped with a flaky pastry crust and baked until a beautiful golden brown, this simple stew becomes a main dish fit for any Lord Commander.
So when it feels like the Long Night has descended and the snows fall a hundred feet deep and that spring may never come, you'll know it's time for a nice hot pie, a few pints of good ale, and some tall tales of long winters told by the fire. Enjoy.
Beef and Ale Pie with Peas and Onions
This recipe makes one single rough crust pastry for the pie lid, and is a surprisingly forgiving and easy recipe. It makes a wonderful flaky, tender crust. But, if you're feeling a bit daunted or even a bit lazy (I wouldn't blame you) you can easily replace this homemade crust with your favorite pre-made puff pastry or pie crust. Also, it's really important to let the filling chill (ideally overnight) before adding the pie crust - if the filling is too warm, it will melt the butter in the dough and you will likely end up with a sad and soggy crust.
• This recipe makes 1lb 2oz puff pastry, but you could easily buy ready-made puff pastry instead.
• The uncooked pastry can be frozen for up to one month before using.
• Pie fillings need to be cold before putting the pastry on top otherwise it can get steamy and make the pastry melt or go soggy.
• If you just want to serve beef in ale without the pie lid, cook the meat for another 30 minutes or until meltingly tender, then finish with the mushrooms (because meat in a pie would get another 30 minutes cooking).
For the rough puff pastry, makes one single crust for the pie lid.