Beef and beer is pretty much up there with cheese and wine in food and alcohol pairings for me. And this pie is a luxurious, winter warmer combo of the two. 

Not only is this pie delicious, but it's not difficult to make, and it's a super supper on a cold day. I have used shop bought puff pastry, which is cheating a little bit, but tastes great all the same!

1 tbsp olive oil
1 white onion
1 red onion
4 cloves garlic
Sprig of thyme
300g closed cup chesnut mushrooms, wiped clean
600g diced free-range beef; braising steak or topside
1 tbsp mushroom ketchup
500ml bottle of Guiness
300ml game or beef stock
1 tbsp grainy mustard
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp flour (if required)
1 pack of shop bought puff pastry
1 egg

Heat a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the oil. Chop the onions finely, along with the garlic and add to the pan. Reduce the heat and sweat the onions for at least 5 minutes, until they become translucent. Add the thyme, stir and add the whole mushrooms. Cook for another couple of minutes, then add the beef. Increase the heat and stir for another 5 minutes. Pour in the mushroom ketchup, bottle of Guiness, half of the game or beef stock and the mustard. Stir, and bring up to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat so that the liquid gently simmers. Add the bay leaf and plenty of salt and pepper. Leave to gently simmer for 90 minutes, until the beef is meltingly tender and the sauce thickened. If the sauce reduces too much, add more stock, and if it's too runny, scoop some sauce out, add flour, mix, and return to the pan.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Take the pie filling mix off the heat, and allow to cool slightly.

Pour the pie filling into a pie dish. Take your puff pastry and place it over the top, tucking any corners in. Brush the pastry with beaten egg and a sprinkling of grated parmesan. You can also make individual pies in pudding bowls.

Cook for 15-20 minutes until the pastry has puffed up and is golden brown.

Serve with mash and peas, and all the lovely juices from the bottom of the pie dish.
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Barbecue sauce goes well with lots of meals. We eat it with this pulled pork recipe, but it's equally as lovely with chicken, prawns or anything straight off the barbecue. It will also keep for a couple of weeks in your fridge, so the recipe below makes enough for more than 1 meal.

Don't let the list of ingredients put you off. This is a one pot sauce and not at all complicated. If you don't have mushroom ketchup, add extra Worcestershire sauce. And if you don't have any tomato passata, you can use ketchup, but if you do this, you need to halve the amount of sugar you use.

2 tbsp butter
1 large onion
5 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fennel seeds
200ml rice vinegar
150ml red wine vinegar
600ml tomato passata
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp mushroom ketchup
70g brown sugar
1 tbsp honey
2 bay leaves
Sprig of thyme
1 tbsp english mustard
1 heaped tsp paprika
Lots of pepper

Heat the butter in a medium sized saucepan, over a medium to low heat. Chop the onion and garlic and add to the pan. They don't need to be chopped with any care, as the whole lot will be blended at the end.

Cook the onion and garlic gently until they become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the fennel seed and fry for 2 more minutes, stirring as you go. Now add the vinegars, tomato passata, Worcestershire sauce, mushroom ketchup, sugar, honey, herbs, mustard, paprika, salt and lots of pepper, and bring up to a simmer.

Stir regularly and leave simmering for around 30 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half and starts to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves, and blend the sauce. Serve cold with whatever you like, and enjoy!
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Before I start telling you about this wonderful recipe, you need to know that it takes 24 hours to cook the pork. I don't want you to read this, and think what a good recipe it would be to cook for your supper tonight. You need to be a little bit organised, but believe me, it is worth it, and once the meat is in the oven, there is very little to do for about 22 hours.

The other thing this recipe requires is a phone call to the butcher. You need a pork shoulder with the bone in, so call ahead and ask them to keep one aside for you, as they normally remove the bones from pork shoulders. Last time I cooked this I got a shoulder of Gloucester Old Spot from a lovely butcher in Tetbury called Jesse Smith (www.jessesmithbutchers.co.uk). This time, I am having my free range pork shoulder delivered by our local London butcher, Wyndham House (www.wyndham-house.com), who deliver for free in the area for orders over £10.

Pork shoulder is a very good value cut of meat, and comes in at around £6/kg, with a 6kg joint serving 18 people, with leftovers!

1 pork shoulder, 4-6kg
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

If you want to eat this for Sunday lunch, you need to start thinking about it on Saturday morning, at around 11am. Remove the meat from the fridge, to allow it 2 hours to come up to room temperature.

Half an hour before the meat goes in the oven, preheat the oven to 220C (200C if you have a fan oven). Score the skin of the meat with a sharp knife, but be careful not to cut straight through the skin into the meat. Mix the fennel seeds, paprika, chilli, salt and pepper, stir in the oil, and rub all over the meat and into the cuts you've made in the skin. Put the joint into a large roasting tray, skin side up, and pop in the oven. You don't need to cover the meat with any foil.

Leave to cook for 30 minutes at 220C (200C fan oven), then turn the oven down to 100C (80-90C fan oven). It now needs to cook for 23 hours. You will need to take it out a couple of times and spoon the fat that it produces back over the meat - you can do this once before you go to bed, and once when you wake up.

I have read several recipes that ask for the meat to be turned upside down (with the skin on the bottom) but I don't do this, and I do not think it's necessary. Leave the meat to cook skin side up.

When the meat has 1 hour to go (ie. it has been cooking for 22 1/2 hours), start prepping the pickled veg.

2 red onions
1 fennel bulb
4 limes
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fennel seeds

Slice the red onions and fennel into very thin strips (the 2mm blade on the magimix is ideal). Drop the onion and fennel into a pan of boiling water for 10 seconds, remove and drain well. Add the juice of the limes, the vinegar, salt and fennel seeds and mix thoroughly so all the onion and fennel is coated. Cover and leave in the fridge for an hour or two, or until the meat is ready. Drain the vegetables before serving.

Once the meat has cooked for 23 1/2 or 24 hours, remove from the oven. The skin should have turned into crackling but if it is still soft, then put it under a medium grill for 5-10 minutes, but watch it like a hawk as it can burn in seconds!!

Take the crackling off the meat and hide it somewhere safe (otherwise, in my house, it all gets eaten before the food's ready)! Wrap the pork shoulder in 3 layers of tin foil, as tightly as possible, and leave to rest for between 30 and 60 minutes.

The meat can be carved with a spoon and fork, as it will just fall apart.

Serve in a bun with a pile of pickled veg, some homemade spicy, sticky BBQ sauce (recipe to follow) and some crackling.

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Having driven through Lewes (in Sussex) a couple of times I knew I wanted to spend a weekend away from London there, so when our anniversary came around it seemed like the ideal time to do it. We booked to stay at The Pelham House Hotel - a lovely old house in the middle of Lewes that looks out over the South Downs (although it was so foggy we couldn't see much beyond the end of the hotel garden!)

I had originally wanted to eat at the hotel restaurant as the menu looked very appetising and at £20 for 2 courses seemed reasonable. However we were told that the hotel restaurant was fully booked, so were recommended the The Pelham Arms pub, which is a 10 minute stroll up the high street. I'm so glad that we ended up eating at the Pelham Arms.

We arrived, welcomed in to a cosy pub, with a dining area to one side. The table reserved for us was in the corner of the dining area, and once we'd seen the pub and the restaurant area, we decided that we'd prefer to eat in the pub area, so our table was changed straight away.

Nestled next to the fire with a pint of Badger's excellent 'Pickled Partridge' ale, we were ready for some food. The kitchen at The Pelham Arms uses local Sussex suppliers for food where possible, and is committed to using ingredients that have been ethically and responsibly produced - as all kitchens should, but often don't! Starters cost £6-7, and include various pates and terrines, soups and croquettes. I chose the locally smoked salmon pate with confit beetroot, tempura mussels and chive crème fraiche. The boy had pheasant, pigeon and apricot terrine with spiced chutney and brioche toast. Both starters were seriously delicious, and packed a proper punch of flavour. 

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