Corned Beef Pie

By Nicola Hanson

The nights are drawing in and the cold is upon us.  Whilst we did not have much of a summer, this is merely more reason to celebrate the autumn season.  Fires are being lit and blankets are out on our sofas; this is the season for candles and cosy nights in, for brisk woodland walks, and meals that warm our bellies and our hearts.

This recipe also reminds me that this is the season of wellies, now dug from our closet for wet weekends.  In the evening, after you’ve peeled them off, a toasty, hearty meal is in order and I have just what you need.

My daughter Bella helped me make the first corned beef pie of the season this year.  When she ate the mixture, she said “mmm, it tastes of cosy’, and so it was that in our house we renamed one of her favourite meals.  I am never very good at making small meals.  When I was growing up, my parents ran a restaurant from their pub in Leeds where portions were always big.  Not only that, but I can scarcely remember a time when we didn’t have people over to eat and to stay, sometimes for weeks, months, and even years. I am sure my mum’s cooking is a major influence for me, so please forgive the size of this pie!  However, the pie is great for a relaxed supper at home or for Halloween when the house is full.  This pie also holds together very well and is as delicious cold as it is hot, which makes it perfect for packed lunches or a woodland picnic – it’s much more satisfying in this weather than a sandwich.

For me, corned beef will always be a part of my childhood.  Before children (my BC years), I was inspired by complicated recipes, sophisticated salads, and bistro style foods.  I was more likely to be found wrapping pancetta around pears or competitively concocting a four hour lasagne with 20 ingredients than touching a tin of corned beef (or pretty much a tin of anything).  But now budgeting is more of an issue that actually reminds me of simpler, larder food recipes long retired; recipes consisting of cupboard basics that are cheaper than fish and chips for two.  I am sure that when my own children are grown, this pie will be a favourite in their homes.  When you try it yourself, it’s bound to be a favourite in yours.

Cosy Pie

Ingredients – filling

2 tins of corned beef (we did initially use one which is fine but ate so much of the mixture we needed to add another- now I just buy 2)

4 tsp tomato puree

1 small/med onion, finely chopped

1 small red onion, finely chopped

1 large potato, diced

1 carrot, finely diced

1 tbsp Rapeseed oil (sunflower oil is fine it is just that this is what we tend to have)

1 squirt tomato sauce (because my daughter loves the idea that it is already cooked with it, feel free to add brown sauce if that is something you like)

1 splash Worcester sauce

1 pinch freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients – crust

For a recipe like this, why make life hard? Unless you love to make your own pastry, frozen puff pastry is perfect.


(optional) We prefer a pastry-top pie which I know some people don’t think of as a ‘real’ pie.  The chilled pie holds its shape without pastry sides and a base but if you want a full pie, cover your largest pie dish according to the instructions on your pastry packet or make your own now and chill enough to use for the top later.

Heat oil on medium heat, add onions and potato.  Keep onions moving so they don’t burn –  we want them softened.  Why the onions are soft but not but not coloured, add the carrot.  Again, keep the mix moving until the carrots are softened (about 10 minutes).

Add the corned beef, sauces, and pepper.  Mix until it is one homogenous mixture without big lumps of corned beef.  The mixture should be nice and thick with the fat from the corned beef melted down.  If it is a little too dry and seems crumbly, add more sauce or a little water.  It needs to be very thick and able to stick together like a thick paste.  Taste the mixture and add more sauce or pepper as you prefer so that it is yummy for you (at this stage we tend to eat quite a lot of the mixture – it’s addictive).

Pre heat oven to 180C or gas mark 4.  Add the mixture to a large pie dish, cover with puff pastry top and get creative with your decorations on the top with left over trimmings!  We like to add the simple label “Pie” and then brush with egg yolk.

Pop it in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is nice and golden.  Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes to cool and firm up before you serve.  Any leftovers can be chilled for lunch the following day (allow to cool on its side covered with a tea towel first).  Cosy Pie is one of those meals that only gets better overnight.  You can prepare this ahead and cook before serving or cook and serve chilled – this is especially perfect for busy weekends.

For a real classic childhood combination, serve with beans.  Dig in and enjoy!

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