Every year, around Saint Patrick’s Day, there is a fun 3-Day Celtic Fair in Sonora, California. Sonora is one of those quaint Gold Rush towns that dot the Sierra Foothills, so named for the miners from Sonora, Mexico who established the town in 1848. Sonora nearly doubles in size during the Celtic Fair, the largest such gathering west of the Mississippi. It’s a real hoot. There’s the usual attractions – jousting, parades, living villages, Tea with the Queen, period vendors and entertainers galore. Here and there throughout the fair grounds, there are stages headlining some of the best Celtic Musicians from all over the world. Our favorite, by far, is Celtica – a bagpipe playing rock band. This group will get your heart pumping and your body jumping. The high-light of their show features flaming bagpipes.
Hubby, Kiddo and I (donned in our Renaissance-period costumes) have been attending the event for a number of years now. While we enjoy everything the fair has to offer, the truth of the matter is that we go for two reasons – the music and the food.
One of the food vendors who make an annual appearance can be spotted no matter where their pop-up kitchen might be. The British Flags flapping in the wind are unmistakable. Their specialty happens to be an English pub comfort dish – aptly named Pub Pies. Although its been said that these pies are losing their popularity among Britten’s pub diners, their popularity at the Celtic Fair is obvious by the long lines of anxious customers. While the pies at the fair are made with a typical savory pie crust, they are none the less delicious.
My rendition of the Pub Pie uses a top crust of puff pastry. I love the light, flaky crust and the crunch you get when you sink your spoon into the Pie. (You’ll need a spoon so as to not miss any of the savory fillings or rich sauce).
In years gone by, we have stayed in Sonora at various inns. With the exception of the Celtic Fair, Sonora really isn’t known for its tourist appeal and finding lodging is always an adventure. Our new digs (yeah!) will cut drive time in half, providing a drive through the lush green country hillsides. We can hardly wait for the 2018 gathering of like-minded crazy people out for some good, clean fun. In the meantime, I thought I’d share my recipe for Pub Pies. It’s one I’ve shared before, but it’s been a few years. This delicious Pub Pie deserves a second look.
Steak and Ale Pub Pies
½ frozen puff pastry sheet, defrosted
1 pound round steak, coarsely ground
6 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons crushed dried thyme
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup Beef Stock
½ cup Stout Ale (see note)
1 tablespoon bottled steak sauce
1/4 Cup frozen Peas (see note)
1/4 cup frozen Carrots (see note)
Note: If you want to make the pies “ale-free” simply increase the beef stock to 1 1/2 cups and eliminate the ale.
The peas and carrots should measure 1/2 cup total. If you can find a bag of Peas and Carrots mixed together – great – use that! The carrots should be diced into pieces just slightly larger than the peas for even balance.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Chop steak into chunks. Fit food processor with a blade and chop meat to a medium ground texture. Set aside until ready to use.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to 6-inch square. Using a sharp knife, cut into twelve 1/2-inch strips. (Or you can just cut squares to fit over your ramekins. That’s what I did, reserving remaining pastry to decorate tops of pub pies.)
In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, brown beef, mushrooms, and onion until beef is no longer pink (about 5 minutes). Sprinkle mixture with thyme and flour.
While beef mixture is cooking, rinse peas and carrots under cold water, then set aside to drain.
Add beef broth, ale (if using) and steak sauce; cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Stir in peas & carrots. Spoon mixture into 6 ramekins; about 3 inches in diameter.
Arrange pastry over filling, tuck and fold to fit. If desired, decorate tops with any remaining scraps of pastry.
Place ramekins on a baking sheet to prevent spillage. Bake until pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Carefully remove pies from baking sheet. Place ramekins on plates for ease of serving.
If you are looking for a Pub Pie packed with chicken, and without the ale, try my recipe for Easy Chicken, Vegetable and Mushroom Pub Pies