Greek beef pie with skordalia and crispy courgettes
“In European culinary traditions, some uses seem expressly designed to prevent garlic from overpowering a dish: for example rubbing a cut clove around a salad bowl or over some toasted bread or, as the Italians do, sizzling a smacked clove in olive oil to extract a trace of its perfume before discarding it. In other preparations, the intensity of garlic seems to be softened by incorporating it in a smooth, oily sauce, as with aïoli Provençal, Spanish allioli and Greek skordalia.”Fuschia Dunlop, The Financial Times, September 2022
This is a thoroughly Greek dish, what with the kalamata olives in the rich gravy and the garlicky skordalia – really a kind of exotic bread sauce – but none of the ingredients are hard to find. The skordalia is essential to this recipe – don’t be tempted to omit it.
TIME ALERT – the pie filling needs to cook slowly – 3 hours minimum. The reason for this is because the recipe uses shin of beef which has a glorious silky gelatinous texture – it’s richer than ordinary braising or chuck steak. But to get the rather unappealing connective tissue to melt it needs at least three hours of slow, gentle cooking.
Aside from that, although it looks like a lot of instructions it really doesn’t take too long in terms of preparation.
One thing you might like to consider is an idea from Rose Ashby, executive chef at Spring. She poaches parsnips in milk, bay, peppercorns, thyme and salt, and then she blends with garlic, lemon and breadcrumbs while slowly adding olive oil to make a parsnip skordalia.
Recipe for Greek beef pie with skordalia and crispy courgettes
Ingredients for the beef pie
- 250g/9 oz of shortcrust pastry – go here for how to make it the quick way or, if you can buy Dorset organic from Waitrose or Ocado or Natural Organic
- about half a cup of olive oil (or if you make soaked olives see ‘is your beloved a wild animal’ and use the oil from that)
- 130g/6 oz pitted black Kalamata olives NB NOT IN BRINE – if those are the only type you can find go here. Otherwise Crespo make good ones.
- 1 teasp plain flour
- 500g/1 lb shin of beef (get the butcher to trim off the silvery sinew on the outside first – and check that this is done). This may not seem that much, but in these days of reducing meat intake it seems perfectly adequate. But if you are an avid meat eater you might want to increase the amount of beef a bit. I have also successfully made this with muntjak in the past. You MUST allow enough time. If you do not have the time use braising/chuck steak, but it will still need AT LEAST two hours.
- 3 red onions
- ⅓ cup/80ml ginger wine
- ⅓ cup/80 ml water
- 1 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tin of plum tomatoes (in a recent taste test Lidl tomatoes came first with a startling nine out of ten; second place was a tie between Waitrose, Tesco and Asda at six out of ten; last with a shameful three out of ten was Sainsburys)
- 1 teasp cumin
- bunch of fresh coriander – about 30g, just over half a cup
- smoked salt and Indonesian long black pepper
- small head of garlic (bash it a bit, take off any loose bits of skin, but keep it whole)
Ingredients for the skordalia
- 150g/5 oz slightly stale good (not the plastic stuff) white bread, crusts taken off and the bread torn into 50p piece size
- 1 cup/240ml warm milk
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with smoked salt
- Indonesian long pepper
- 2 tbsps sherry vinegar
- ⅔ cup/160ml good green-coloured olive oil
Ingredients for the crispy courgettes
- 2 courgettes sliced about ¼”/½ cm wide
- a little seasoned flour
- rape seed oil for frying (Brock & Morten‘s from Derbyshire is good)
- lemon juice (squeezy is fine)
FIRST get the pie filling going
- Preheat your oven to 130°C – if you have an Aga you will be using the simmering oven first.
- Check through your meat. Cut it into 3cm/1″ cubes (your guests should not need to cut it), and get rid of all the gristle.
- In a casserole (ideally one which you can put the pastry on and make the pie in eventually) heat a couple of teaspoons of the oil.
- Season the flour and coat the meat with it.
- Fry the meat until brown and then take it out and leave it to one side.
- Add everything else including the meat, breaking up the tinned tomatoes in the process, bring to simmering point.
- Cover and leave to continue simmering in the oven for a minimum of 3 hours. Take out the head of garlic.
THEN make the skordalia
- Soak the bread in the milk for about five minutes and then squeeze out – reserving the squeezed out milk.
- Mix together with the garlic, the pepper and the vinegar.
- Mix the oil in slowly with a fork – do this slowly, you may not need the whole lot. It depends on the staleness of the bread.
THEN prepare the courgettes:
- Sprinkle them with a little salt and leave.
THEN make the pastry if you haven’t bought it. Follow this link for how to do this quickly. The shorter (flakier) it is the better.
THEN you can EITHER go away and return about half an hour before you want to eat OR you can finish cooking the pie and simply reheat when you need to. Either way you then need to:
- Preheat the oven to 210°C (use the Aga roasting oven).
- Roll out the pastry.
- Move the stew to a pie dish if you need to, taking out the cinnamon stick as you transfer it. Fish it out if you’re cooking the pie in the same casserole.
- Put in a pie funnel or an upside down tall egg cup inn the centre of the pie dish to keep the pastry from sinking into the gravy and getting stodgy.
- Use the reserved skordalia milk to brush around the edges of the pie dish to help the pastry to stick to the edges better, and then brush the pastry over with the rest of the milk to get the pastry to go golden (unless you happen to have the odd spare egg yolk knocking around but I never have).
- Put the pie in the oven for twenty minutes. After that, check, it may need a bit longer.
- Warm the skordalia gently (put it on the Aga warming plate if you have one, or wherever you warm your plates if you don’t, or you can get it warm in the microwave – it should be just above room temperature).
- Dab the courgettes with some kitchen towel and toss in a couple of squirts of the squeezy lemon. Then toss in the flour seasoned with the pepper.
- Heat the rapeseed oil in a large frying pan, get it quite hot, nearly smoking.
AT THE LAST MINUTE
- Fry the floured courgettes quickly in the hot rapeseed oil until golden and crispy.
- Serve with the pie and the skordalia.