At it's simplest, this would be made with only beef, onions, potatoes and water, topped off with a pastry of flour and lard, and accompanied by pickled red cabbage (and/or beetroot, and/or onions), mushy peas or simply malt vinegar.
In this version however, I've included, because I love it, a splash of Henderson's Relish (the balsamic of the North), a few mushrooms, some thyme and beef stock instead of the water. And that's probably about as far as you want to stray from the basic version - simplicity being part of this pie's charm.
I tend to serve it with ketchup, buttered cabbage and some crusty bread.
In an ideal world, of course, Al Read or The Clitheroe Kid would be on the radio, but you can't have everything.
a sprig of thyme
a splash of oil
250g shin of beef, cubed
1 onion, thickly sliced
75g button mushrooms, quartered
a good splash of Henderson's Relish (or Worcestershire sauce)
400ml beef stock
300g peeled potatoes, cubed
salt + black pepper
125g self-raising flour
a good pinch of salt
80g beef suet
a little milk
Place the thyme in a small casserole dish. Heat a large frying pan and add a splash of oil. When it's smoking, add the beef and brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat into the casserole. Lower the heat a bit and add the onions to the frying pan and fry until softened. Add the mushrooms, stir and fry for a few minutes. Transfer the onions and mushrooms to the casserole. Add a good splash of Henderson's (about a desertspoonful) to the frying pan together with 300ml of the stock (leaving 100ml for later). Stir and let bubble for a minute then pour into the casserole. Season with black pepper. Cover the casserole and simmer gently for a couple of hours.
Meanwhile, make your pastry: in a bowl, rub together the flour, salt and suet. Add the water and mix everything together. On a floured surface, knead the pastry briefly, form into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge.
When the beef is tender, remove the thyme from the casserole, add the potatoes and, if necessary, pour in the remaining stock so the potatoes are fully submerged. Simmer for 30 more minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through. Check for seasoning (if you've used stock cubes or similar you may not need to add much, if any, salt). Spoon the meat, vegetables and gravy into your pie dish (or individual dishes as I did).
Bake the pie(s) for 30-40 minutes (or until the pastry is golden) in a 180C/160C fan oven.