Thursday, 9 February 2012

Beef and Kidney Pie

I've eaten some very interesting kidneys in the last month. Mild, almost sweet lamb kidneys, veal kidneys and much stronger beef kidneys that Laurie from Hawk Hill Farm sent me. Now, I must state upfront that the real kidney lover in this family is my husband. I eat kidney, but I don't love them like he does. It's been quite some time since we've cooked beef kidneys.

The Hawk Hill Farm beef kidneys were from a two year old Angus/Ayrshire cross steer raised on forage and supplemented with oats and barley during the last two months. We sautéed one kidney with mushrooms and served in a mustard cream sauce. Good, but the kidney was really too strong for the sauce, the recipe is better with veal, or lamb kidneys. (You can soak beef and pork kidneys in cold salted acidulated water - 1 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice and about 1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt per 250 ml / 1 cup of water - for up to an hour before cooking them to reduce their strong taste. Drain and pat them dry before cooking).

It's important to remember that kidneys come in pairs. Veal and beef kidneys are larger and multilobed so people often forget that there are two in each animal. Kidneys are covered with a fine membrane, so make sure you remove it, by making a a shallow slit on the rounded side of the kidney and pulling it off with your fingers. Often kidneys are sold with the membrane already removed. Small kidneys can be left whole, or cut in half, while a beef/veal kidneys are usually cut it into pieces following the natural pattern of the lobes.

We decided to make beef and kidney pie with the other kidney. The advantage of making beef and kidney pie, for the kidney novice, is that you can decide just how much kidney you want to add, and you have the pastry on top and mushrooms and celeriac (celery root) in the stew to distract you. All you need to complete the meal is something green, a green salad or even better braised rapini to balance the kidney.
It is a perfect way to serve strong flavoured kidneys.


Franci said...

Hi Jennifer,

I tried but honestly, I don't enjoy kidney much...and my husband doesn't like anything savory that looks like a no pies in our house. I'm familiar with the french preparation with mustard cream sauce (I attended the French Culinary Institute in NYC and that's the way we were tought in school). I tried also wrapped in their own fat leaving medium rare. Maybe I should go chinese and try Fire-Exploded Kidney Flowers from Fuchsia Dunlop.

BTW, are you familiar with Adelle Davis? She was a famous nutritionist in the 60ies-70ies, a lot of her recipe are not really appealing to me but she talks a lot about odd bits.

From her "Let's cook it right" I'm quoting:

Around the outer layer of a kidney are several million of tiny knots of capillaries[...]the blood plasma flows through tiny tubes surrounding the knots of capillaries into connective tissue, which is white. It is only when the plasma reaches this white tissue that it takes on the composition of urine. In preparing kidneys, let no water touch them until the white tissue is snipped away with the kitchen scissors. When kidney are cooked at too high temperature or overcooked, the odor of ammonia can be detected...

Maybe you are already familiar with it.


Malcolm said...


It looks like you've used a shortcrust pastry? I prefer to use a suet pastry for beef and kidney pie, after all suet is the fat from around the kidney so it imparts beef flavour to the pastry.

The quantity of grated suet is half that of the flour, add salt and pepper. Mix with water in the usual pastry manner, you'll need more than if it were regular shortcrust. Use straight away without any chilling period, roll out thicker than shortcrust, around 1/2" thick. Don't egg or milk wash. Bake at a higher temperature than shortcrust.

Are you familiar with Beef and Kidney pudding? A pudding basin is lined with 2/3 of this suet pastry, raw diced beef and kidney which have been rolled in flour are added and chopped onion is poked in here and there. Pour in water to come almost, but not quite up to the top. Roll out the remaining 1/3 of the pastry to make a lid. Seal it well onto the pudding. Cover the top of the basin with foil and steam for 5-6 hours. To serve put a plate over the top of the pudding and invert it, lift the basin off. Even better than a pie!


Jennifer said...

Hello Malcolm,
Yes I did use a lard shortcrust pastry this time, but often I use a suet pastry or even suet scones (tea biscuits), which are delicious. The recipes are all in my FAT book, as is steak and kidney pudding. I love suet it is one of my favourite fats to cook with.

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