August 25, 2014

Braised Beef and Potato Pie

gallery wall

I believe that people re-discover themselves in their late 20s. One of those things you re-discover is hobbies. You need hobbies when you're older for something to do on the weekends, to talk about at parties and express yourself. I was one of those kids with a booked schedule of classes, sports and groups and I found later in life without the structure of school or living at home, those things started to drop by the wayside. In University, there wasn't that much time for hobbies, unless you counted drinking as a hobby. I know many people at the time considered it a sport. 

I have discovered new things in my 20s that I enjoy doing, such as writing, cooking, baking, yoga, gardening and D.I.Y projects. If the Internet is considered a hobby, I would be one of those people with an obsessive collection. I also like re-discovering things I did when I was younger, such as art, which is why I was so excited when I signed up for a local PaintNite event as a date night activity. We have a bit of a collection going on a gallery wall I put up in our house of prints and photos from places we've travelled (see photo above); however, there aren't any pictures that we have painted ourselves until now. 

Paint Nite

PaintNite is a painting event usually held at a pub or bar where participants have a few drinks, learn how to paint and work on a canvas masterpiece. You choose what night you would like to go based on that night's painting and everyone learns to paint the same design. I thought it was neat to see what other people were doing and how creative people were being based on the main painting. I hadn't painted anything for years. I thought it was a lot of fun to use those skills again and do something a little different on a weeknight, plus, it's relaxing to immerse yourself in something creative. 

An instructor takes you through each step of making the design and basic techniques. All of the supplies, paints and colours are there when you start and they guide you through everything in an almost "paint by numbers" fashion. I ended up with a painting I was proud of for a first effort. Currently PaintNites are only operating in 12 Canadian cities. Hopefully they will grow to many more because it's a cheap and fun way to learn how to paint or brush up on your skills. It's a great idea for a date night, girl's night out or something different to try instead of just drinking at the bar. Check out the PaintNite website


After recently coming back from a trip to Australia where we discovered the fastfood chain "Pie Face" and many amazing meat pies, I had a hankering for making one myself. In Australia, I had a legendary meat pie with mushy peas in it. This pie is kind of like a work of art with the decorative potato topping and a slight resemblance to apple pie. It's like one of those Top Chef challenges where they have to make an ingredient look and taste like something else. This recipe is also adapted from one by the queen of crafts, Martha Stewart. Her Braised Short Ribs, Stout and Potato Potpies inspired me to use potatoes as a decorative pie topping. 

Braised beef and potato pie

Braised Beef and Potato Pie

One 3-5 pound beef roast
2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion or shallot, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed and sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups beef broth
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Rosemary, thyme, paprika, salt and pepper
1 pre-made or frozen pie crust

braised beef


1. Season the roast with salt and pepper and then dip them in a bit of flour to coat. Heat oil in a dutch oven on high and brown the meat for about a minute per side. Transfer to a plate.
2. Reduce the heat in the dutch oven to medium. All the onions and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the carrots and mushrooms and cook for a few minutes. Then add the beef broth and place the meat back on top of the vegetables. Add the herbs and seasoning that you would like.

3. Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook for 2-2 1/2 hours on the stove. Near the end of the cooking time, add the flour to thicken the sauce and stir to avoid clumps. Then start to break apart the meat and mix everything together. You can add a little bit of water if you find the sauce doesn't have enough "gravy."

4. Pre-bake the pie crust in the oven for 15 minutes at 350F. Transfer the filling to the pie crust and smooth over. Arrange the sliced potatoes over the filling and drizzle with a bit of olive oil on top. Bake the pie in the oven for 45 minutes at 375F. 
braised beef and potato pie
When you think about it, cooking and art are similar. It takes a certain knack to make it look good, you have to be delicate and precise, and ingredients (or paints) go a long way. I think the process of turning a piece of meat into slow cooked gravy and then into a pie should be considered an art form. I'm not saying this is the best meat pie ever made. This is just me perfecting my own skills and creating something to express my own creativity. Food is a beautiful thing.

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