Large chunk of beef dripping (you can buy this in most supermarkets)
700 g boneless beef shin, cut into large chunks
20 g plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
200 g smoked bacon lardons or smoked pancetta cubes
225 g whole baby onions or little shallots
400 ml sweetish dark ale
400 ml beef stock
4 sprigs of thyme, leaves roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp cocoa
Ready made sheet of puff or suet pastry
Preheat the oven to 160C/gas 3. Heat the dripping in a large frying pan over a high heat, toss the beef in seasoned flour to coat then fry the beef in batches until properly browned. Spoon into an ovenproof casserole dish once done.
Turn down the heat slightly and add the lardons and the onions to the pan. Cook until the bacon fat begins to melt, and the onions to brown on all sides, then tip into the casserole with the beef. Pour a little of the ale into the pan to deglaze it and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom, them pour over the meat. Add the rest of the ale, stock, herbs, sugar, vinegar and cocoa and bring to a simmer. Cover, and put in the oven for 2 1/4 hours, then uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 1 1/2 hours until the meat is tender and approaching falling apart. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 4. Unroll your sheet of pastry. Once the filling has cooled spoon it into a pie dish and cover with your pastry, pinching down on the edge to seal. Brush with milk and then cut a slit in the middle of the pastry to allow the steam to escape. Put into the oven and bake for 50 minutes or so until you have a lovely golden top. It may take a little longer or a little less than the time given, use your judgement on this. Serve with steamed greens of your choice.