Oysters were a favorite of the English long before they encountered the rich oyster beds of the New World. The ancient Romans living in Britain were the first to construct and commercial farm oyster beds.
The oysters produced there were of such high quality they were exported to the elite kitchens of empirical Rome. There they were combined with beef in large ceremonial dishes.
When the Roman Empire finally collapsed in the 4th Century AD, so did any organized shellfish production. Their use in elaborate culinary dishes did not reappear until the 14th century when they were listed as a banquet ingredient in cooking manuscript written by the Master Chef of King Richard II.
In large part, oysters and beef were kept separate by the medieval church which declared a large number of days where one should only eat seafood, rather than meat. In fact, for a third of the year, eating meat was forbidden.
It was not until the 16th century that a cookbook gave a recipe for grandly roasting beef along with oysters. By the end of the 1700’s, culinary creativity became far more extravagant to the delight of the wealthy.
The shellfish demand from the chefs serving the rich led to the oyster industry being re-established and greatly expanded. As a result, the price of oysters fell dramatically.
During the 1800s everyone was able to afford both beef and oysters. Both Queen and commoner savored their new found combination. Perfect with port or stout, it soon became a favorite English dish as winter winds blew.
Beef and Oyster Pie
- 2 lbs beef steak meat
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 4 tablespoons canola oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 ounces button mushrooms, trimmed
- 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms
- 4 - 6 shallots, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
- 10 fluid ounces Guinness Extra Stout
- 10 fluid ounces beef broth
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 8 oz shucked Taylor Pacific Oysters
- 1 lb puff pastry , defrosted if frozen
- 1 egg, beaten, for brushing
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Season the pieces of steak with salt and pepper, then toss with the flour.
- Shake off but reserve the excess.
- Heat half the oil in a large saucepan and brown the meat in 2 batches until well colored on all sides. Transfer to a plate.
- Add another tbsp of the oil, half the butter and the mushrooms to the pan and fry briefly.
- Set aside with the beef.
- Add the rest of the oil and butter, the onions and sugar to the pan.
- Fry over a medium-high heat for 20 minutes, until the onions are nicely browned.
- Stir in the reserved flour, then gradually add the Guinness and stock and bring to a boil, stirring.
- Return the beef and mushrooms to the pan.
- Add thyme, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste.
- Cover and simmer for 1½ hours, until the meat is just tender.
- Lift the meat, mushrooms and onions out of the liquid with a slotted spoon.
- Put into a deep (2 pint) pie dish.
- Bring the liquid to a boil and boil rapidly until reduced to 1 pint.
- Remove and discard the bay leaves and thyme twigs.
- Adjust the seasoning if necessary and pour into the pie dish.
- Stir everything together well and leave to cool completely
- Add the oysters to the pie dish and push them well down into the sauce.
- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is 1in larger than the top of the pie dish.
- Lay the pastry over the pie dish, and press down to seal.
- Trim away the excess overhanging pastry.
- Crimp the edges between your fingers to give it an attractive finish.
- Chill for 20 minutes to relax the pastry.
- Brush the top of the pie with beaten egg.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden and the filling is bubbling hot.