Linda shares her own recipe for a deliciously satisfying Beef and Onion Slice - just the thing for a comforting winter supper

When I was a nipper my grandpa used to make a wonderful beef pie with sliced waxy potatoes under the crust. He often cooked it when we went to visit and I’d sit at the table with my eyes like saucers and my mouth watering. Only the table manners drummed into me by my mother stopped me sitting with knife and fork poised like Desperate Dan with his cow pie.

Grandad’s was made with shortcrust pastry, with un-thickened gravy that was more like beef tea, all cooked in a scratched old Pyrex dish. But the potatoes were a stroke of genius. Double carbs? Sign me up. You can leave them out if you prefer, the pie will still be good, but they really do add an extra dimension.

In my version you don’t even need a pie dish, just a baking sheet. It’s a glorious slab of steak and onions wrapped in buttery, flaky pastry. Like most pie fillings, this one is best made the day before, so the flavours have time to develop. Then all you need to do is assemble and cook it just before you want to eat. Please raise a glass to my grandad when you eat it.

Linda Duffin is a food writer who operates a cookery school, Mrs Portly’s Kitchen Classes, from her beautiful Tudor home in mid-Suffolk. Students are invited, in season, to plunder the kitchen garden and orchard in her two-and-a-half acre garden for ingredients and can also book a stay as part of a course. Linda works closely with local producers, some of whom join her in teaching classes in their specialist areas. The Mrs Portly name, Linda says, started as a joke but she has grown into it.

Great British Life: Linda Duffin's Beef and Onion Slice.Linda Duffin's Beef and Onion Slice. (Image: Linda Duffin)

Beef and Onion Slice

Approx 500g shin of beef, trimmed and cut into 3cm/1.5" dice
2 or 3 tbsp oil
500g onions, peeled, halved lengthways and sliced thinly
2 sticks of celery, trimmed, de-stringed and diced small
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
300ml stout
700ml beef stock
2 bay leaves
2 sheets of ready-made puff pastry, preferably all-butter
About 140g of waxy potatoes, pre-cooked and cooled (optional)
1 egg, beaten with a splash of water, to glaze

Turn the oven to 180C/160 fan/350F/Gas Mark 4.
Heat the oil in a large, oven-proof casserole and brown the beef all over. Remove to a plate. Add the onions, celery and garlic, sprinkle with salt and 1/2 tsp sugar, stir, put on a lid and cook gently for 10 minutes until wilted. Remove the lid and cook for a further 20 minutes until the onions are soft and caramelised. Stir occasionally and watch they don't burn towards the end of the cooking time.

Put the meat back in the pan along with any juices on the plate. Stir in the flour and cook off for a minute or two. Add the stout followed by the beef stock, stirring until the sauce has thickened.
Put on a lid and cook in the oven for two to two and a half hours. Ovens vary, so check after an hour and a half to two hours and add more stock if it's drying out. Continue to cook until the beef is tender, by which time the sauce should be very thick, dark and rich. If it isn't, reduce it by simmering on the stove.

While the meat is in the oven, cook the potatoes, if using, until tender. Drain and set aside to cool.
When the meat is done, check the seasoning, fish out the bay leaves, spoon into a bowl and cool. Cover and refrigerate, preferably overnight. Next day (or once the filling is completely cold) remove the puff pastry and pie filling from the fridge. Give them 20 minutes to come to room temperature and heat the oven to 200C/180 fan/400F/Gas Mark 6.

Lay one sheet of puff pastry on a baking sheet and cover with the filling, leaving a 7.5cm/3" margin. If you're using the potatoes, slice them and lay in a single layer over the beef. Brush the margin with water and lay the second sheet of pastry on top. Crimp tightly to prevent any leakage. Score a criss-cross pattern on top, without cutting all the way through the pastry, and cut a slit in the centre to let steam escape. Brush with egg wash. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden and the filling is piping hot. If the filling needs more time, cover the pie loosely with kitchen foil to prevent the pastry burning.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. I like it with a crisp green salad and/or coleslaw. Any leftovers are just as good, cold (but not fridge cold), with pickles and chutney on the side.