Monday, January 05, 2009

Beef & Mushroom Cobbler

It is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cold.

I realise it's winter and I know that it's not an unexpected event but WOW. Seriously minimal temperatures for ten days now and more set to come. We had a robin bob bob bobbing in the garden christmas day making quite a racket for such a little bird and now we have snow.

Really needed something that was cockle warming Saturday night to get us through the weekend and hopefully banish the last of my flu. Had to be something vaguely traditional rather than spicy for some reason so I settled on stew made special with the addition of cobblers. Before I came to London cobblers was the slightly old fashioned term for a group of shoe repairers. Then I moved here and discovered that cobblers is in fact freighted with meaning. Bit rude, even.

Cobblers is a classic of Cockney rhyming slang. It originates from cobbler's awls, which are the pointed hand-tools that cobblers use to pierce holes in leather. The rhyme is with balls, or testicles (presumably spoken in the broadest of cockney accents). Lots of people use it as a sort of expletive, possibly unaware of where it came from, to such an extent that it is now considered an acceptable vulgarism.

Upon my arrival on these shores another unknown - to me at least - meaning of cobblers is a rough topping for pies, named for the shape of cobble stones rather than balls I suspect... It's lovely stuff, essentially a cheesy herby wet scone dough that puffs gently on top of your stew, adding fragrance and carbs and stretching your meat to feed more. All that could possibly be desired.

Beef & Mushroom Cobbler

500g diced stewing steak
400g onion, roughly chopped
2 tbspns olive oil
500g field mushrooms, sliced thickly
2 tbspns butter
2 sprigs thyme
2 bayleaves
1 tbspn tomato paste
2 tbspn plain flour
500ml stock or water

For the cobblers
Small bunch of chives, thinly sliced
225g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
85g butter
75g Parmesan freshly grated
225ml full fat mik

Make the cobblers first. Sift the baking powder and flour together in a bowl. Chop the cold butter into the flour and, using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until you have what looks like pale yellow breadcrumbs. Stir in the chives and the grated Parmesan along with a good grinding of black pepper. Then gradually add the milk to make a sort of wet scone dough. Don't over mix it. Put the bowl into the fridge till you are ready to use it.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and cook the meat till it just starts to brown. Remove it from the pan and set it to one side.

Return the pan to the heat and add the chopped onions. Stir frequently and cook over a moderate heat till they just start to caremalise - about 20 minutes.

Add the meat to the onions and then add the tomato paste and flour. Stir for a couple of minutes till the flour is incorporated into the mix then add the herbs and stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook gently, with the lid on the pan, for about an hour.

Meanwhile melt the butter in a separate pan and fry the mushrooms. When they give up their moisture keep them on a low heat till most of it evaporates.

Add the cooked mushrooms and their remaining juice to the meat. Season.

Continue to cook over a low heat for half an hour.

Put the meat into a good sized casserole dish and top with spooned lumps of the cobbler mix. Bake at gas4/moderate/250F for 30 minutes till the top is a mass of golden lumps.

Serve with boiled carrots and sprouts.

This will serve four very generously and cost £4.25 for the meat, £1.50 for the mushrooms and less than 50p for the rest of the bits. Saucy!


Anne said...

Sounds delicious Bron - we made steak and mushroom pie last night was perfect for these cold nights we are having!

bron said...

Mmmm - I love the way the mushrooms add richness and complement the beef. Way the weather's going could soon be a regular!