Looking out my window at a brilliant blue Australian sky I can’t help but smile as I read these lines:
“Nor rural sights alone, but rural sounds,
Exhilarate the spirit,
– William Cowper –
As much as I love the rural beauties around me – weeds masquerading as wildflowers, fresh eggs nestled in golden straw, plump green bell peppers dangling from their stalks – it is also the sounds of the country that grip my heart and soothe my spirits.
Right now I can hear my chooks (chickens) clucking contentedly as they peck at apples and cucumbers I tossed onto the grass for them. Every now and then one of the little goats gives a plaintive bleat and I look up to see them all trying in vain to stand on the same log at the same time.
We’ve had some ripping thunderstorms lately. How I love watching the storm clouds build, seeing the massive streaks of lightning and hearing shuddering booms of thunder before that first whoosh of wind blasts through the gum trees and huge raindrops clatter on the tin roof of the back porch.
I thoroughly enjoy exploring cities, delighting in the mad hustle and bustle, having a marvelous time attending concerts or plays and discovering great restaurants. But it’s in the country where my soul finds rest.
Whether floating along canals outside Amsterdam…
…wandering deserted cliffs on the island of Gozo…
…or sitting quietly in the courtyard of an Italian farmhouse.
On such sunny, peaceful days in the country, I crave comfort food like homemade bread slathered with butter and honey. My favorite country, comfort food is a Shredded Beef Pie. It’s basically a savory beef stew tucked in pie dough and baked until the crust is flaky and beautifully browned. I admit I’ve been known to eat all the stew first then linger happily over the salted pie crust. Sigh.I like making personal pies in little ramekins. They go perfectly with a glass of chilled sparkling Shiraz (summer) or your favorite red wine (winter) or good stout beer (anytime).
Where do you go to restore your spirits?
Shredded Beef Pie
(Adjust amounts to suit your needs. This makes enough for two regular pies or eight small ones.)
small beef roast
2 onions, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
3-4 potatoes, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
flour or cornstarch
favorite pie crust dough (I love Julia Child’s blue ribbon pie crust recipe), enough for two double-crust pies
1 egg, beaten
- Place roast, vegetables, rosemary, salt and pepper in crock-pot, cover with water and cook 8-12 hours until meat shreds easily with a fork.
- Prepare pie crust. Press into pie pans and chill until ready to use.
- Remove roast and let rest a few minutes. Shred roast and cover until needed. Pour remaining contents into a colander, saving juices for gravy. Cover vegetables until needed. Allow juices to cool 10-15 minutes.
- Pour juices into saucepan. Taste for seasonings and add salt or pepper as needed. Make roux of flour (or cornstarch) and water. Add to juices and turn heat to medium-high. Bring mixture to boil, stirring constantly. Boil 1-2 minutes until it thickens to the consistency you desire (a thick gravy). Remove from heat.
- Combine shredded beef and vegetables in a bowl, pour enough gravy over mixture to coat. Should be like a thick stew.
- Remove pie pans from fridge. Pour stew into each pan, mounding it slightly in the center. Roll out top crust and place on top. Pinch edges to seal (use a bit of water if it doesn’t stick properly). Cut slits in top crust for steam to escape. Brush with egg and dust with salt.
- Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Serve hot.