My latest experiment in cooking was a made-over meat and potato pie.  For those of you who don’t know what this fabulous creation is, let me explain.  I grew up eating mostly British cooking (don’t laugh!), my grandmother’s father was directly from England, so he demanded all the traditional foods: pasties, meat and potato pie, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding (more on that in another post).  So, growing up one of my favorite comfort foods was meat and potato pie.  The English make all kinds of pies, but the one my grandmother and mother both made was simple: cubed round steak, onions, potatoes, covered with a pastry crust and baked.   My grandmother’s was a little different from my mom’s: grandma used Worcestershire sauce and pearl onions, which my mom did not (she swears grandma conveniently left these details out when teaching my mom to make it as a newlywed). 

So, this is a very traditional, meat and potatoes (and nothing else), comfort food, and what better on a 15 degree day in the midwest than pie shaped comfort?  But – how to make it healthy while still retaining it’s essential character?  Well, I’ve had a wonderful steak and Guinness pie that is a variation, so I knew that it could be tinkered with and not ruined.  I started by just thinking of unobtrusive ways to add nutrition.  As someone with an autoimmune condition, I am supposed to be avoiding things like refined starches, white potatoes, etc.  So, I started by adding sweet potatoes and carrots.  I left in some white potatoes for that comfort angle, but not nearly as many as I would normally use.  I also used a different spice blend (my mom’s was just flour w/ salt and pepper, and maybe paprika), and a whole wheat crust.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the results, but I used an entirely whole wheat crust, and I have to say that it was a dismal failure.  It tasted wonderful, but it was impossible (at least for someone as impatient as me) to work with and I ended up making a “patchwork pie.”  So, I’m linking the recipe I used, but I would probably recommend using 1/2 all purpose and 1/2 whole wheat.  For those of you who are appalled by the shortening – another thing I’m supposed to avoid is animal fats/cholesterol.  So, although I would normally use a combination of shortening and butter, I used all shortening this time. 

I’ve tried to give good measurements, but honestly I mostly “eyeballed” it.  Adjust the veggies and potatoes to your taste, as well as the spices.  I wanted a warm spice blend with just a hint of heat, but if you like really spicy things, more cayenne would be good.  As for cooking vessels, if you choose a good frying pan with straight sides, you can do all the cooking in one pan.  If you don’t have one, you can transfer the cooked mixture into a casserole dish at the end, before topping it with the crust.

Made-Over Meat and Potato Pie
2 Tbs. canola oil
1- 1 1/2 lbs cubed stew beef
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 tps. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cayenne
salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2-3 cups good quality beef broth
2 large sweet potatoes (approx. 3 cups)
2 large white potatoes (russet, red, gold, whatever you’ve got)

To Prepare: Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.  Combine flour and spices in a medium bowl.  Toss cubed beef (try to trim as much fat as possible) in the mixture, shaking to remove excess.  Sear beef on all sides (you may need to do this in a couple batches – if you crowd the pan the beef will just steam).   Remove beef from pan; reserve on a plate.  Add onions and carrots, cook until onions are translucent and slightly browned.  Add broth to deglaze the pan, scraping bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen all the bits.  Return beef to the pan, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1-2 hours (really the longer it simmers the better, it just depends how patient you are).  When beef is tender (or you can’t wait any longer), add potatoes.  If necessary, add more broth or water to cover.  Simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are fork tender (10-15 min).  Check the seasoning – adjust to taste.  Cover with pastry crust, pierce with a fork, and bake at 425 degrees, until crust is browned (approx. 15 min).