Braised Steak in Ale with a Herby Cobbler Topping

We absolutely love this hearty recipe from the Great British Farmhouse Cookbook by Yeo Valley. A flavoursome slow-cooked casserole with the added bonus of a cheesy cobbler top - a real winner on a cold winter's day.

Serves 6

Cooking Time: approx. 2.5-3 hours

Ingredients

1kg braising steak, cut into 4cm chunks
5 tbsp sunflower oil
200g smoked bacon lardons
500ml good beef stock
25g butter
250g small chestnut mushrooms or thickly sliced field mushrooms
2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tsp white sugar
3 garlic cloves, crushed
20g plain flour
500ml brown ale
Leaves from 3 large sprigs of thyme
4 bay leaves
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the herby cobbler topping:
165g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
90g chilled butter, cut into pieces
1 tbsp thyme leaves
1 tbsp curly leaf parsley, chopped
50g Cheddar, finely grated
1 medium free-range egg
2 tbsp soured cream, double cream or natural yoghurt
100ml (approx.) milk

Method

1. Toss the beef with plenty of seasoning. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a flameproof casserole dish, add the bacon and fry briskly until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate. Add the beef pieces in batches and brown well over a medium-high heat. Spoon onto a plate.

2. Add half the stock to the pan and rub the base to release all the caramelised juices, then tip back into the rest of the stock. Add half the butter and the mushrooms to the casserole dish and fry briskly for 1-2 minutes, then set them aside with the beef. Add the remaining oil and butter to the pan with the onions and sugar and fry them for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until richly caramelised. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

3. Stir in the flour, followed by the ale, stock, thyme, bay leaves and Worcestershire sauce and bring to the boil, stirring. Return the beef, bacon and mushrooms to the pan, season and simmer for 1.5-2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the beef is tender and the sauce has reduced and thickened. Remove the bay leaves and leave to cool slightly, then spoon into a shallow ovenproof dish. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.

4. For the topping, sift the flour, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a bowl. Add the butter and rub together until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the herbs and cheese. Break the egg into a measuring jug, add the cream and make up to 180ml with milk. Stir into the dry ingredients, then spoon into separate mounds around the edge of the dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the cobbles are puffed up, golden and cooked through.