Who doesn’t love pie? I mean, seriously. It’s like the best food ever.
I love to make my own pies, although I do cheat and buy the packet mix shortcrust pastry. There’s a limit to what I can do in my life, and there are times when it’s totally ok to use some convenience food to help you along the way.
For this you will need a pottery dish. I have four, once which is medium sized, one with is large sized and two which are mini ones. If you are cooking just for you, a mini one is enough, and will stretch to two servings. For a family, a medium one will feed 4-6, depending how small you like your servings. For big gatherings – a big dish is essential.
So, here’s how I prep my pies. For pastry, if possible, I use this:
It’s the best I have found. One bag will make an awesome pie.
Place the mix in your bowl and add a little cold water. Stir into the mix using a knife (it works better than a spoon and will cut through the clumps). Add small amounts of water and keep stirring until the pastry has mixed together into a cohesive but sticky lump.
Dust some plain flour over a clean work surface and tip out the pastry. Scatter some more flour over the top and coat your hands in it.
Press the heels of your hands into the pastry and then using your fingertips, bring the furthest edge of the pastry forward, folding it in half to meet the bottom edge. Repeat this two or three times, adding more flour if it begins to stick to the work surface or your hands. Turn the pastry over and repeat the process. The kneading and folding will strengthen the pastry, so that the pie won’t rip when you remove it from the dish after cooking.
Roll out your pastry to the required size. If you don’t have a rolling pin, a straight wine bottle makes an excellent substitute. Use plenty of flour so that it doesn’t stick to the bottle/rolling pin or the work surface. Try to keep the pastry the same thickness all through, don’t let it get too uneven.
Very carefully transfer your pastry to the dish, laying it out so that it coats the bottom and as much of the sides as possible. Using a clean knife remove the overhanging bits and set to one side. You will need these for the lid, so don’t throw it away!
Using a clean form, stab the pastry all over the bottom. This will allow airflow and prevent it getting stuck or burning to the bottom of the dish.
Place your filling in the dish (I’ll give you some ideas for that further down!)
Place a small amount of milk in a mug and using a brush or your fingertips, coat the top edges of the pastry around the rim of the pie dish. Milk acts like glue to pastry, this will help to seal your lid on and prevent the filling spilling out in the cooking process.
Take the leftover scraps and roll them out to make a lid for your pie. Once you have it roughly the right shape, coat the pastry with milk using either a pastry brush or your fingers. Then – very carefully – place the pastry over your pie, milk side down!
Using your fingertips, press the pastry into the edges of the pie around the rim of the dish. If you have overhanging pieces, roll them inward towards the edge of the pie and squash them down again with your fingertips. They will make an excellent crust.
Coat the top of the pie with milk again, especially around the edges, and then with a clean bladed knife, slit the pastry across the middle, both length ways and width ways, making a cross in the centre of the pie – don’t cut right to the edge, just cut in the centre. A bit like the swiss flag, but with just a slice rather than a blocked cross.
Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees and cook for 45mins to an hour on the bottom shelf of the oven. The pastry should be golden brown and firm by the time it is ready.
I use a fish slice to remove pieces of the pie, as it is easier to get it out of the dish with the bottom still intact.
OK, so let’s talk fillings. Here’s three to get your mouths watering:
STEAK AND MUSHROOM
1 tin stewed steak
4 – 6 closed cup mushrooms
1 tin of sliced carrots
one small onion
Cook the onions gentle in a saucepan with half a glass of red wine to soften them. Place the stewed steak, drained carrots and diced mushrooms in a bowl and stir together. Sprinkle in the mixed herbs and add the onion and red wine mix and repeat. Add gravy granules – at least 2-3 heaped tablespoons and mix again. The granules will help the pie mix to thicken up while cooking so that it is not too sloppy.
CHICKEN, BACON AND MUSHROOM
1 tin of chicken in white sauce
4 slices of salted bacon
Half a glass of white wine
1 tin of sliced carrots
4-6 diced mushrooms
White sauce granules OR gravy granules
In a bowl, mix together the chicken, carrots and mushrooms. Add the garlic powder and mixed herbs and stir again. Cook the onions gently in a saucepan with half a glass of white wine to soften them. Slice your bacon into thin strips, add to the onion and wine mix and stir on a medium heat to seal the bacon. Once the bacon has turned light pink on all sides, add to the chicken mix and stir. Add 2-3 heaped tablespoons of white sauce granules (or if you want a meaty pie, gravy granules) and stir into the mix to help the mixture thicken up while cooking.
2-3 cooking apples – peeled, cored and chopped
1 pint of dry cider
1 cup of plain flour
3 tablespoons of soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
half a teaspoon of nutmeg OR half a teaspoon of mixed sweet spice
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
OPTIONAL – Handful of dried raisins.
In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and spices. Add the apple pieces and lemon juice (and raisins if you are using them) and stir together so that the dry mix coats the apple. A little at a time, add the cider and stir into the mix. The mixture should be a rich brown colour, almost like brown sauce, once all of the flour has been stirred in. Don’t make the mix too sloppy – drink what’s left of the cider 😉
So there you go – three pies for you to try out and impress people with! Let me know how you get on.*[Got something to say? Submit to Project Shandy]*