We had invited an English guest over for dinner, and I strongly suspected that he would enjoy a version of this classic English dish. (Yes!) I got the recipe originally from my stepfather, Jack, who was also English. He made his the traditional way, with calves kidneys and beefsteak. What was sitting in my freezer, though, was the afore-mentioned lamb kidneys and lamb stew meat. Well, traditions are there to be adapted! There is no reason not to revert to the original beef though, if that is what you want, or can get.
Jack's recipe is unusual in that it calls for a generous amount of rosemary, which I think goes amazingly well with the kidneys. It didn't call for any flour to thicken, but I thought it could use some, and put in a tablespoon. Having done so, I conclude it could have used even a little more, so I'm calling for 2. Many people like to replace some of the broth with beer. That's up to you, but I'm putting it out there. I'd probably be more inclined to do that with beef than with lamb. And finally, that's my favourite biscuity crust for meat pies (again). It's easy, and flaky without any fancy technique required.
6 to 8 servings
2 hours - 30 minutes prep time - done in stages
Make the Meat Filling:
450 grams (1 pound - about 6) lamb kidneys
900 grams (2 pounds) stewing lamb
2 medium onions
4 stalks celery
2 medium carrots
2 tablespoons bacon fat or other oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon rubbed rosemary, ground
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups lamb or beef broth, or water
2 to 3 bay leaves
Cut the kidneys into bite-sized pieces, discarding the white fatty cores and any stringy bits. Trim excess fat and gristle from the lamb, and make sure it is cut into bite-sized pieces as well.
Peel and chop the onions. Wash, trim and chop the celery. Peel and dice the carrots.
Heat the fat or oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the lamb stew meat pieces, and brown them , turning to brown them evenly. When they are browned, add the onions, celery, and carrots. Continue cooking and turning, until the vegetables are softened and slightly browned. Add the lamb kidney pieces, and mix in well.
Sprinkle the flour over the meat, along with the rosemary, Worcestershire, and salt and pepper. As ever, the amount of salt depends on your broth - up to 1 teaspoon if it has none; adjust that amount down as needed, to zero if the broth is salty. Once the flour has been mixed in and absorbed, pour in the broth and add the bay leaves. Stir well to make sure nothing is sticking to the pan. Simmer for 30 minutes or so, until the sauce has thickened and the meat is cooked. Stir regularly.
This can be done a day ahead if desired; bring it out of the fridge half an hour before the crust is put on and the pie baked, to get the chill off before it goes into the oven. Either way, the stew should be put into a large, deep pie plate or a 2 quart casserole dish to be covered with the crust and baked.
When ready to make the crust and finish the pie, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Make the Crust:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
The butter should be very soft. Mix it with the oil and buttermilk. The butter can be in fairly large lumps.
Mix the baking powder and salt into the flour.
Mix the flour into the wet ingredients. Stir until everything is amalgamated. There should no longer be large lumps of butter, but small lumps or streaks are not only fine, but good.
Put the dough out on a piece of parchment or waxed paper a little larger than the casserole dish, and roll out the dough until it will cover the casserole. If your casserole dish has a lid, this is useful for using as a template for the dough.
When you are ready to cover the casserole, lift the paper to the edge of the casserole, and turn it over so the dough sits on top of the casserole. Peel off the paper and discard it. Poke holes in the dough with a fork to allow steam to escape.
Bake the pie at 350°F for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how warm (or not) it was when it went into the oven. The crust should be nicely browned and the filling hot and bubbling.
Last year at this time I made Pasta alla Pierogi.