When it comes to food, there is no worse disaster than a delicious meal that falls short on social media. What a disaster! After hours of toiling in the kitchen, a meager half-dozen likes from your immediate family makes you want to swear off cooking forever.
Desperate cooks, fret not! With its warm colour palette, tasteful use of fancy cooking terms and inclusion of socially approved beer, the beef and Guinness pie is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. As a bonus, it's also edible.
This recipe will take you about 3 hours to prepare. You can add about 4 hours for post-processing the pictures and whoring out on social media. It yields 6 to 8 portions, and about two dozen likes. I have not yet tested the recipe with Instagram or Reddit, but feel free to experiment!
You will need the following ingredients:
- 500ml of Guinness
- 2 onions
- 2 carrots
- 3 stalks of celery
- 1 bunch of fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 500g potatoes
- 900g chuck beef
- ~1/2 cup milk
- 3 cloves garlic
- olive oil
- ~1/2 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar*
- salt and pepper to taste
* Brown sugar can be especially difficult to find in Germany. I have addressed this in a previous article.
As for camera equipment, I went for the versatile Sony RX100 supplemented by two regular 100W lightbulbs. Any camera will do, but shooting in RAW lets you turn it up to eleven in post-processing.
First, gather all the ingredients and wash the vegetables.
Before you start this recipe, it's wise to make sure you have enough battery left in your camera to capture the entire process. The last thing you want is to waste ingredients on a delicious meal sans social validation. Gathering all the ingredients also gives you a great opportunity to snap the cover picture for your recipe.
Once you're all set, chop the onions, the garlic, the celery and the carrots, and set aside.
Take the thyme and bay leaves and wrap them together with string. This makes it easier to remove them from the stew later.
Pour two tablespoons of oil in a large pot, then add the vegetables and spices. Cook on medium heat until the vegetables soften - about 10 minutes.
If you are photographing this step, it's wise to use manual focus so you don't overpour while your camera helplessly tries to decide what to put in focus.
Mix the vegetables with the oil, then cover for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables soften.
Meanwhile, chop the beef into one inch (25.4mm) cubes.
This is a good moment to stress the importance of keeping your knives sharp and honed. Not only is it safer, but honing your knives gives your guess an unwarranted confidence in your cooking skills.
Lightly coat the beef cubes in flour. In the pictures below, I went slightly overboard with this step.
The flour coating helps with browning the meat, then with thickening the sauce. Here's an excellent explanation by Reluctant Gourmet.
In Lightroom, you can adjust the tone and saturation of the reds to yield deep, appetizing reds that make your meat pop out.
Set the vegetables aside, and brown the beef cubes in the same pot. Season to taste. You might need to do this in several batches. You are only looking to give the meat a flavory brown coat, not to cook it.
This is where not overcoating the beef becomes important. Otherwise, a thick black crust will form at the bottom of the pot, and it will give your recipe a noticeable burnt taste.
Browning the meat is what gives it its flavour, thanks to the Maillard reaction. This is by far the most important step in this recipe.
From that point on, you will be shuttling the camera between the countertop and the stove. You might want to shoot in manual mode and write down the camera settings to get consistent lighting across your pictures.
Remove the meat, then use the Guinness to deglaze the pot.
Add the vegetables, then the meat, then bring to a boil and cover.
Leave to boil for about about 90 minutes - until the sauce is thick enough. Add salt to taste.
At the 60 minute mark, begin preparing the mashed potatoes for the topping.
Boil the potatoes in salted water until you can break them apart with the wooden spoon.
While the potatoes are boiling, chop 1/3 to 1/2 a clove of garlic
Garlic is really easy to overdo with mashed potatoes, so be careful! Your Instagram followers won't notice, but if you end up eating the food, it can quickly ruin its taste.
Drain the water, then mash together with milk, butter, garlic and salt.
Milk gives you the desired texture, while butter, garlic and salt give you the taste you are looking for. Creamy mash is easier to spread, and yields much tastier leftovers.
Pour the stew at the bottom of a cooking plate, then spread mashed potatoes over it with a fork.
Make a nice zen garden in the mash with the fork. This relaxing activity also yields a tasty crust in the oven.
Preheat the oven at 200° C (473.15 kelvins) and throw the pie in there until the potatoes start to brown.
Take out of the oven, stage a perfect dining table, snap a few pictures, post on social media, reheat and enjoy!
For the final shot, keep your aperture wide open and bring your camera as close as possible to your subject. Nothing says "art" like blurry edges and Dutch angles.