For the beef
2 tbsp sunflower oil, plus extra for the dish
750g-1kg braising steak (or topside) sliced into 6 thin steaks (buy a joint and do it yourself if you can’t find any already sliced)
2 onions, chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
1 tsp treacle, sugar or golden caster sugar
1 tbsp plain flour
175ml red wine
2 beef stock cubes diluted in 600ml hot water
small bunch thyme, half of the leaves picked for the pastry and reserved
3 bay leaves, tied together
For the pastry
500g block of short crust pastry
flour, for dusting
1 tsp dried porcini mushroom powder (optional)
thyme leaves, from the bunch used for the beef
For the chips
800g frozen oven chips or fries
Up to three days before, braise the steak. Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Heat half oil in a flameproof casserole pan and brown the steaks really well on either side, then set aside. Add the onions and carrots to the pan, drizzle over a little more oil, then cook over a low heat for 5 mins until coloured. Drizzle over the treacle or add the sugar, and scatter in the flour, stirring until you have a brown paste clinging to the vegetables. Tip the meat and any juices back into the pan and give it all a good stir. Pour over the wine and stock, season, tuck in the herbs and bring everything to a simmer. Cover with a lid and cook in the oven for about 2 hrs, or until the meat is tender, then leave to cool and chill until needed. Can be prepared up to two days ahead and chilled.
For the pastry, roll out the block on a floured surface to the thickness of a £1 coin, scatter over the thyme leaves and mushroom powder. Fold the pastry into quarters and chill until needed. Or, to give the pastry a more interesting finish, scatter over the thyme and mushroom powder when you roll the pastry out to line the dish, rolling over them firmly so they stick. Can be prepared a day ahead and chilled.
Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7 and put a baking sheet in the oven. Oil a 24-28cm pie dish or tin (ideally with a lip) and dust well with flour. Roll out the pastry to a thick-ish round that will easily line the pie dish with a slight overhang, then line the dish. Lift the steak out of the gravy, then spoon in the vegetables and a little of the gravy and lay the steaks over the top to form an overlapping layer (serve any leftover gravy alongside in a small jug for pouring over). Pile the chips over the meat. Trim the edges of the pastry and crimp the edge. Bake for 40 mins until the chips and pie crust are golden – cover the chips loosely with foil if they are browning too quickly. Scatter over some salt then serve straight from the dish with the leftover gravy (reheated), and the rest of the bottle of red wine.