Beef and oyster pie or pudding is a classic dish from Victorian times. My version substitutes the oyster for the cheaper snail. I got mine online and they came, without shells, in a can.

Take your usual beef and ale pie ingredients, slow cook for a few hours then stir through some snails before adorning with a golden pastry top.

Serves 2-3 on its own, 4 if accompanied by vegetables and potatoes

Preparation time: 10 – 15 minutes

Cooking time: 3 – 4 hours


500g braising beef, in chunks (I like beef shin in big chunks)

3 tbsp plain flour

4 tbsp olive or vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped into small cubes

1 clove garlic, finely chopped or crushed

1 bay leaf

¼ star anise

1 tbsp tomato puree

½ tbsp English mustard

250ml/½ bottle Bristol Stout (or a favourite stout, porter or ale)

200ml beef stock water (I use concentrate mixed with water)

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

10 chestnut mushrooms, quartered

A good knob of butter

24 snails, rinsed (out of the shell)

Celery salt (optional)

Salt and pepper

1 pack of ready-made all butter puff pastry, cut to fit your pie dish or casserole

A drop of milk or a beaten egg to glaze (I tend to use milk unless I know I can use the rest of the egg in whatever else I’m making at the time)


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 130 degrees.
  2. Put the flour on a plate or in a bowl and season with salt and pepper then coat the beef in the flour.
  3. Heat the oil in a casserole and brown the meat in batches. Only put as much meat in the pan as will fit in one layer. Not overcrowding the pan like this means the meat will brown nicely rather than sweat. Once your first batch of meat is brown, transfer it to a bowl whilst you brown the rest.
  4. Turn down the heat and tip the onions into the pan. Allow them to cook gently until they become soft. Add the carrots and a pinch of celery salt (if using). Cook gently for a few minutes before adding the garlic, bay leaf and star anise.
  5. Once the garlic fumes have dissipated, add the tomato puree to the pan, and stir to combine with the other ingredients. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes before you add the mustard, stout, stock and Worcestershire sauce.
  6. Bring to the boil then return the browned meat to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, turn the heat down and allow to simmer whilst you move onto the mushrooms.
  7. Heat up a frying pan, add the butter and the mushrooms and fry on a high heat. The water will start to come out of the mushrooms then cook away. Once the pan is dry, the mushrooms are ready to add to the stew.
  8. With the lid on, transfer the casserole dish to the oven and cook for 2 to 3 hours (two hours is sufficient but three will ensure the meat is meltingly tender).
  9. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly then transfer the stew to a pie dish if your casserole is too big to transform your stew into a pie.
  10. Increase the oven temperature to 200 degrees.
  11. Stir through the snails and top with the pastry. A little water around the edge of the casserole or pie dish helps it stick. A pie funnel helps prevent the pastry from sinking in the middle and allows steam to escape. If you don’t have a funnel, cut a small hole in the middle of the pastry topping to let the steam out.
  12. Brush the pastry with milk or beaten egg and bake in the oven for around 25 minutes, until the pastry is cooked and golden brown.