A bi-weekly beer + food column to support the launch of CAMRA’s podcast, Pubs. Pints. People. You can tune in every fortnight on Apple Podcast or Spotify or simply visit https://shows.acast.com/5ed0cbc8e3ae160820cc9477/

WHAT a year for anniversaries; the sort that mostly mean lots of marching, processions, street parties and all the stuff we can’t do just now. And as this is ‘family week’ in the public bar of the Red (on) Lion, let me flag up an anniversary you might not be aware of. Forty years ago this year saw the founding of Chiltern Brewery by the delightful Jenkinson family. Richard and Lesley opened their farmyard brewery in 1980; now their sons George and head brewer Tom run the business including tied house historic King’s Head in nearby Aylesbury, and the next generation is coming along nicely. They are big on tradition and anniversaries. Fran and I were last in the brewery shop in December, before the current proverbial hit the fan, and one of the bottles we bought was Battle of Britain Old Ale; since 2020 marks the 80th anniversary of that ‘finest hour’ and today’s recipe is Woolton pie (I’m coming to that) the presence of this bottle in our cellar seemed serendipitous. It is an award winning ale – indeed this small brewery has won an incredible number of awards for its heavenly brews both bottled and draught. An appropriate word as the family are committed Christians bringing their ethics to their brewing – the sign above the door proclaims ‘Fear God and give him the glory’, as do bottle labels; our answer to Belgium’s Trappist brewers. Among their unusual beers in my happy possession are Gingerbread Imperial Stout 2019, and MM 2,000th Gyle 2016 when they mashed their 2,000th gyle (wort), slowly conditioned the beer for 12 weeks then matured it in champagne bottles (yet another beer too precious to drink!)

And Chiltern is unusual in one other respect. At the brewery’s large tap/shop you can buy fab foods made with their beer or its ingredients – hop pickled onions, artisan beer bread, Mash Tun Marmalade, chocolate malt fudge, fruit cake containing one of my top tipples, Bodger’s Barley Wine. Apart from their ale, the recipe below also contains BBQ sauce flavoured with Lord Lt’s Porter, Chiltern Ale Mustard and Terrick Truckle Cheese. Due to the pandemic you can’t go inside currently but there’s a ‘drive-thru’ system with a stall where you can order what you want and they’ll pack it and put it in your boot. (Also deliveries, see website).

Brewer Tom’s own tasting note for Battle of Britain is ‘dark amber, roast chestnuts, complex’ so you’ll need something similar for my recipe. He also recommends it with savoury pies.

This vegetable pie is named after the First Earl of Woolton, Minister of Food and rationing during World War 11. Humble pie it may be, but its origins are grand. It was created by Francis Latry, then Master Chef de Cuisine at the Savoy.

So, who’s the cutie in the photo? It’s my mum, Margaret, a Wren based in Southampton during the war where she dated a US officer who became a Hollywood legend – James Stewart. Bet she ate finer fare than this in their officers’ mess…

Woolton Pie with Old Ale (serves at least four)

Filling: around 400g sliced potatoes, 300g diced swede, 200g diced carrot, 200g diced turnip, one diced celery stick, 100g diced parsnip; one small leek and onion, finely chopped; 100g Terrick Truckle cheese, sliced; a good pinch each of fresh chopped sage and parsley (or use dried); pepper, salt and nutmeg to season; around 150ml dark, malty ale, 2 tsps of Chiltern Ale mustard; 1 tbsp BBQ sauce.

Suet crust pastry: 250g self-raising flour*, dash of salt, 100g shredded suet, cold water, small beaten egg for glazing.

Parboil potato slices briefly until still firm, rinse with cold water, and spread over the base of a pie dish. Simmer swede, carrot and turnip for about 5 minutes then add celery and parsnip and cook for around 5 minutes more until partly cooked; drain, reserving vegetable stock. Add raw leek and onion to cooked veg, mix all together, and spread over spuds; arrange cheese slices on top.

Make beer stock by simmering 250ml of the vegetable water until slightly reduced, then add 150ml beer along with sage, parsley, grating of nutmeg plus pepper and salt to taste. Simmer for another few minutes then stir in the mustard and BBQ sauce; pour enough into pie dish to come about two thirds of the way up the filling.

For the suet crust pastry mix flour and salt in a bowl, stir in shredded suet, then add very cold water just a little at a time until you have a soft pastry. Roll it out quite thickly. Drizzle a slurp of remaining beer over the pie ingredients before topping with the pastry, and brushing with egg. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C/gas mark 6 for about 30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown, the filling piping hot. I served mine with cabbage – no shortage of that during the war! Cheers…and bon appétit.

*I used wholemeal self-raising flour; it proved rather sticky and difficult to roll out so do use as little water as poss – but the pastry did turn out wonderfully crisp, dark gold and tasty. You could use ordinary white self-raising flour instead – and if you want the pie to be vegetarian swap the suet for around 120g unsalted butter, rubbed into the flour to form ‘crumb’ texture, then mix in enough cold water to make your pastry.

And Chiltern is unusual in one other respect. In the brewery’s large tap you can taste and buy fab foods made with their beer or its ingredients – hop pickled onions, artisan beer bread, Mash Tun Marmalade, chocolate malt fudge, fruit cake containing one of my top tipples, Bodger’s Barley Wine. Apart from their ale, the recipe below also contains BBQ sauce flavoured with Lord Lt’s Porter, Chiltern Ale Mustard and Terrick Truckle Cheese.

Brewer Tom’s own tasting note for Battle of Britain is ‘dark amber, roast chestnuts, complex’ so you’ll need something similar for my recipe. He also recommends it with savoury pies.

This vegetable pie is named after the First Earl of Woolton, Minister of Food and rationing during World War 11. Humble pie it may be, but its origins are grand. It was created by Francis Latry, then Master Chef de Cuisine at the Savoy.

So, who’s the cutie in the photo? It’s my mum, Margaret, a Wren based in Southampton during the war where she dated a US officer who became a Hollywood legend – James Stewart. Bet she ate finer fare than this in their officers’ mess…

Woolton Pie with Old Ale (serves at least four)

Filling: around 400g sliced potatoes, 300g diced swede, 200g diced carrot, 200g diced turnip, one diced celery stick, 100g diced parsnip; one small leek and onion, finely chopped; 100g Terrick Truckle cheese, sliced; a good pinch each of

fresh chopped sage and parsley (or use dried); pepper, salt and nutmeg to season; around 150ml dark, malty ale, 2 tsps of Chiltern Ale mustard; 1 tbsp BBQ sauce.

Suet crust pastry: 250g self-raising flour*, dash of salt, 100g shredded suet, cold water, small beaten egg for glazing.

Parboil potato slices briefly until still firm, rinse with cold water, and spread over the base of a pie dish. Simmer swede, carrot and turnip for about 5 minutes then add celery and parsnip and cook for around 5 minutes more until partly cooked; drain, reserving vegetable stock. Add raw leek and onion to cooked veg, mix all together, and spread over spuds; arrange cheese slices on top.

Make beer stock by simmering 250ml of the vegetable water until slightly reduced, then add 150ml beer along with sage, parsley, grating of nutmeg plus pepper and salt to taste. Simmer for another few minutes then stir in the mustard and BBQ sauce; pour enough into pie dish to come about two thirds of the way up the filling.

For the suet crust pastry mix flour and salt in a bowl, stir in shredded suet, then add very cold water just a little at a time until you have a soft pastry. Roll it out quite thickly. Drizzle a slurp of remaining beer over the pie ingredients before topping with the pastry, and brushing with egg. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C/gas mark 6 for about 30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown, the filling piping hot. I served mine with cabbage – no shortage of that during the war! Cheers…and bon appétit.

*I used wholemeal self-raising flour; it proved rather sticky and difficult to roll out so do use as little water as poss – but the pastry did turn out wonderfully crisp, dark gold and tasty. You could use ordinary white self-raising flour instead – and if you want the pie to be vegetarian swap the suet for around 120g unsalted butter, rubbed into the flour to form ‘crumb’ texture, then mix in enough cold water to make your pastry.

Susan Nowak
Susan Nowak, pictures by Fran Nowak

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