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What is Steak and Kidney Pie?

By Lisa O'Meara
Updated May 16, 2024
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Steak and kidney pie is a traditional British dish consisting of steak, kidneys, vegetables, herbs, and sauce baked in a crust. Also called "Kate and Sidney," "Snake and Kiddy" or "Snake and Pygmy" pie in British slang, steak and kidney pie dates back to the early 1900s. Although individual chefs may add their own personal touches when making the dish, the basic recipe remains very similar over a century after its conception.

The traditional filling in a steak and kidney pie is made with diced beef steak and diced kidneys of an ox, lamb or pig tossed with a beef broth based simple sauce. Fresh herbs, such as thyme or parsley, are added to the broth along with salt and pepper, onions and a thickening agent like flour or cornstarch. As other foods have become readily available through the years, additions have been made to the recipe with some chefs adding worcestershire sauce or port and others using garlic or mushrooms for extra flavor.

The one crust version of the pie uses puff or short crust pastry. This covers just the top of the pie without completely enclosing the filling from the bottom. Two crust steak and kidney pie is generally made with hot water crust pastry in order to avoid having the filling soak through the bottom of the crust.

Hot pies have been eaten in England as far back as the 15th century, but it wasn't until around the late 1800s that beef became a typical ingredient. A basic beef pie consisted of hot meat, broth and mushrooms under a crust. Steak and kidney pie is thought to have evolved from these pies, in part, for economic reasons. Kidneys were cheaper than beef and could be used to replace some of it while still providing a filling meal. Adding kidneys also served to bring additional flavor and an interesting texture to the traditional beef pie.

Steak and kidney pudding was a precursor to steak and kidney pie. It was made by lining a pudding dish with suet crust made from hard beef or mutton fat removed from around the animal's kidneys. After filling the dish with beef steak and sauce, whole kidneys were often incorporated, and the top was covered with more suet crust.

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