About the steak and ale pie ingredients
You can use pretty much any cut of beef, as long it's boneless. Stewing or braising steak are good, but I prefer skirt. This is one of the cheaper cuts of beef, marbled with fat and collagen. The collagen breaks down into gelatine during cooking, giving a slightly gummy mouth feel that I like.
The beer can be any kind of stout, porter or bitter, but absolutely not a lager-type beer.
Make the steak and ale pie filling
Trim any excess fat off the meat and cut it into small cubes (a little over a centimetre, about half an inch). Peel and chop the onion into pieces about a centimetre square. Pour the stock and beer into a large pan or pressure cooker. Add the onion, beef, sage and onion and bring to the boil. If you are using a pressure cooker, put the lid on, bring it up to pressure, and cook for about 20-30 minutes. If using a normal pan, bring to the boil, turn down to a gentle simmer, put a tight-fitting lid on and let it bubble away for about three and a half hours. Stir it occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking, add extra water if the mixture seems to be going dry. At the end of the cooking time, taste a piece of beef - it should be tender. If it isn't, give it a bit more time.
When the filling is cooked, check for seasoning and add salt if needed. If you like a thick gravy, sift in some flour and stir it well. Allow the filling to cool.
Make the hot water pastry
Cut the lard into small chunks. Place the boiling water and lard chunks into a small pan and heat them until the lard has melted. In a mixing bowl, stir the salt into the flour, pour in some of the molten fat and mix well. Add more water and fat until it is all used up. Mix well. If you have a stand mixer or food processor and don't mind creating extra washing up, those will do the job in seconds. Tip the dough out onto your worktop and give it a massage to make sure all the flour is combined. Wrap the dough in plastic film and let it rest in the fridge for half an hour.
Assemble the steak and ale pie
Preheat your oven to 230°C (450°F). Grease your pie tin with butter. I used a 20cm (8 inch) tin, but you have enough ingredients here to make a slighly larger one if you wish. Roll out half of the pastry to a thickness of 3-4mm (just under a quarter of an inch), then place the inverted pie dish in the centre of the pastry and cut out a disc leaving a margin of about 10mm (half an inch) for sealing and crimping. Set the disc aside, and roll out the rest of the pastry to form the base. Carefully fold it into the pie dish, and press the pastry right into the corners. Trim off the excess, again leaving a 100mm margin from the edge of the tin.
Pour the steak and ale filling in, and moisten the pastry rim with cold water. Place the pastry top on and press the edges together with your fingers and thumbs. Now raise the edge of the pastry so it stands up vertically, and form a crimp by placing the index finger and thumb of one hand against the inner rim of pastry. Your finger and thumb should be about 2cm (three quarters of an inch) apart. With the index finger of your other hand, press the outside of the pastry rim into the gap between your finger and thumb. Repeat this all around the edge of the pie.
Finally, make some small holes in the top with a skewer, and then brush all over with the egg and milk mixture. I like to sprinkle some dried parsley over the top for decoration, but this is not necessary.
Place the pie in the oven and bake for 40 minutes. You might want to have a peep at it after 30 minutes, just in case your oven is more efficient than mine (unlike cakes, pies don't mind at all if you visit them while they are cooking). When your pie top is golden brown, it's done. Your pie should have a slightly crispy top, a delicious soggy bottom where the pastry has absorbed some of the gravy, and a rich, meaty filling. That's a proper pie!