Recipe : Minced Beef and Beetroot Pie with Fennel Seed Pastry

Unfortunately the weather in little old Loughborough doesn't seem to have got the memo that it is now Spring and should be getting warmer and brighter. Cold weather means cold weather dinners like stew and dumplings, mounds of mashed potatoes or rich pastry topped pies. Our veg box last week contained a pile of beautiful beetroot which I usually just roast and toss in balsamic vinegar, but I figured that its slight tartness would work well with the richness of beef mince and buttery pastry. My addiction to aniseedy flavours also came into play as I ground up some fennel seeds and added them to the shortcrust which I think added a really great extra note, but of course you could omit these if you're not a fan!

Minced Beef and Beetroot Pie with Fennel Seed Pastry
Serves 4

Pastry Ingredients
100g very cold salted butter, cut into small cubers
200g plain flour
1 tsp fennel seeds, ground as finely as you desire
1 egg yolk
a few tbsp water

Filling Ingredients
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into little tiny cubes
2 medium beetroot, peeled and cut into little tiny cubes
1 onion, diced small
1 garlic clove, crushed
500g minced beef
salt and pepper
250ml beef stock (fresh or from stock cubes)
1 tbsp plain flour mixed with 2 tbsp water to make a paste

Pastry Method
Add the butter cubes to the flour and fennel sees and either whizz in a food processor a few times or rub together with your fingers until you get a sand like texture. Now add the egg yolk and enough cold water to bring it together into a dough. Go slowly with the water as you don't want it to go too soggy. When you ahve your dough wrap it in cling film and place in the fridge to chill while you make the filling.

Filling Method
Pre-heat your oven to 180C and place a baking tray on the middle shelf. Fry your veggies in a little olive oil until they start to soften, then add the garlic clove, mince and seasoning and cook until the meat is browned. Next add the stock and bring the pot to a boil, then add your flour water paste and mix in thoroughly - this will start to thicken the sauce. You could use gravy granules for this instead of the flour paste to intensify the flavour, though you may want to use plain water rather than stock. Let bubble away over a medium-low heat with the lid on for about 15 minutes, then pour into a pie dish big enough for the filling to reach nearly to the brim (mine was an 11" x 7" rectangular ceramic dish) and leave to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Remove your pastry from the fridge and roll out on a floured surface until it is about 2cm larger on each side than your pie dish. Place over your dish so it covers it completely and poke a few holes in with the tip of a sharp knife so steam can escape - you can also add an egg wash if you want it to have a shiny top. Place the pie on to the baking tray in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry topping is golden brown and cooked through. Serve any way you wish - we had it with buttered baked potatoes with a sprinkling of smoked sea salt.