For people who care about their food

Margaret Johnson’s Beef and Guinness Pie

This recipe is from The Irish Pub Cookbook by Margaret Johnson.


2lb stewing beef, cut into ½” pieces [Presumably they mean cubes.]
[I’m probably making about half the quantity. Despite being a food-freak, I’m only a seven-stone weakling and there are only two of us in this household anyway.]
4 cups Guinness stout [At around £3 a can here, I’ll only use about half a can and drink the rest. The pie will taste fine without it, and after drinking the Guinness maybe we won’t care anyway.]
1 clove garlic
2 bay leaves, split [I used to think that bay leaves were a bit of a faff, but they do make a difference to the flavour of things, so it’s worth the effort to use them if you can.]
1 cup homemade beef stock, canned low-sodium beef broth, or 1 beef bouillon cube mixed with 1 cup boiling water [Or you can use that great standby if you can’t be bothered to make stock – 1 tsp Marmite dissolved in boiling water.]
2 stalks celery, sliced [Nah.]
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced [No have.]
1 large onion, sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tbsp minced fresh flat-leaf parsley [I have to admit I’ve never heard of minced parsley. I’ll chuck in some chopped ordinary parsley.]
1 bouquet garni (a cheesecloth [muslin] bag containing 3 sprigs fresh parsley, 1 sprig fresh thyme, 8 to 10 black peppercorns, and 1 bay leaf) [Yeah, right. If you want to add herb flavours then just ditch the stalks, chop ’em up and bung ’em in. No need for the bag.]

[“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda]

1 tablespoon cornstarch [cornflour]
½ cup cold water
3 to 4 large mushrooms, sliced (optional)



1. In a large bowl or nonreactive pot [What the heck is a nonreactive pot? My cooking utensils all behave themselves – or else!], combine the beef, 2 cups of the Guinness, the garlic, and bay leaves. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. Drain the marinade and discard the garlic and bay leaf.

[If you’re slow-cooking something you don’t need to marinade for 24 hours. Maybe it would improve the flavour? I didn’t hang around to find out.]

2. In a stockpot or large saucepan over medium heat, bring the marinated beef, the remaining 2 cups of Guinness, and the beef stock or broth to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 1 to 1½ hours, or until the meat is tender. Skim off any foam that rises to the top. Add the celery, carrots, onion, salt, pepper, parsley, and bouquet garni and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are slightly tender. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with ½ cup of cold water, and whisk until smooth. Stir into the filling, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the liquid is thickened.

[Foam? What foam? Do they mean you should skim off any scum?]

3. [I didn’t use their pastry instructions.]

4. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Remove the bouquet garni, and transfer the filling to a 10″ deep-dish pie plate. Stir in the mushrooms, if using. Cover with the pastry, crimp the edges, and cut a few slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Brush the top with the egg wash. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top is golden and the mixture is bubbling.

[No need for all this faff. Just whap the cooked pastry on the top. Crimping? Hey, we’re not at the hairdresser’s. This is food we’re talking about here. As far as I’m concerned, jail is the best place for Martha Stewart and anyone else who cooks like that.]

Please also see my photo essay

2 Responses to “Margaret Johnson’s Beef and Guinness Pie”

  1. Mike K-H

    A lot of US cookbooks are like US books on bringing up children – full of weird rituals. Form without function. Some of the best US recipes I have seen were in the Foxfire books – a series written by a teacher in the Ozarks who got the kids to interview their grandparents and extract all kinds of ancient knowledge from them.

    Mind you, the UK is going the same way, so maybe it’s the whole world that’s beginning to rot at the seams.

  2. Not Delia

    I’ve always said that recipes are for ideas and not to be followed blindly. But some of the stuff in this book by Margaret Johnson is just plain WRONG.

    I may have been a bit harsh on Martha Stewart, though. I’d thought she was one of these terribly housewifey types but I saw her on the telly recently and she seemed to be pretty good. But I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to buy a Martha book soon because she’s not into the same kind of things as I am.

    However, I’ll certainly look more carefully in future in case I accidentally buy another one with completely daft instructions.

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