It’s time for the bake from my own country. There are so many to choose from: timeless cakes like the Victoria Sponge, regional specials like the Eccles cake or Bakewell tart, seasonal fruit cakes or hot cross buns, tea time favourites of scones or crumpets, or the humble muffin, which even has “English” in its name (everywhere except, of course, in England). But I’ve chosen to do a pastry style that I’ve hardly seen anywhere else in the world: the hot water pie crust, using it to make the classic English game pie. Since it’s coming up to December and people are thinking about Christmas, I’ve gone for a recipe from the BBC with the seasonal twist of cranberries and chestnuts.
Although you can warm up this kind of pie, it’s more often eaten cold as a lunch dish. It’s a fabulous main course for a picnic, although you’ll need freezer capacity since the game season doesn’t generally coincide with picnic weather in these parts. But the same technique should work for a pork pie or other variants.
The pastry-making technique is a bit like choux pastry without the eggs: boil up fat and water together, then quickly combine the flour and mix. As with most recipes for hot water crust, the BBC’s specifies lard, which is difficult to find right now and, in any case, isn’t to everyone’s taste. I used butter and it worked fine. The key is to work quickly when mixing and rolling the pastry, which is beautifully elastic when it’s still warm.
Cranberry sauce filling
- 150g fresh or frozen cranberries (buy 200g – we’re using the rest later)
- 50g golden caster sugar
- 20ml water
- If using frozen cranberries, defrost them.
- Add all ingredients into a pan, bring to the boil and simmer until cranberries are soft and the liquid is much reduced
- Pour into a bowl to cool
- 800g mixed boneless game, such as rabbit, venison, wild boar, pheasant, partridge or pigeon
- 300g pork belly
- 200g bacon lardons
- 150g cooked chestnuts (the vacuum packed ones readily available in UK supermarkets work well)
- 50g fresh or frozen cranberries
- ½ tsp ground mace
- 2 large pinches of ground nutmeg
- Small bunch sage
- Small bunch thyme
- Finely mince the pork belly (or blitz in a food processor)
- Chop the game finely. I went for around 5mm cubes, which gives a fairly coarse filling which is well matched to the size of the lardons in the supermarket packet. But you can go finer if you prefer.
- Chop the chestnuts coarsely.
- Chop the sage and the thyme finely.
- Mix everything together as evenly as you can: it takes a surprisingly long time to get the belly mince evenly distributed around the rest of the filling.
Making the hot water crust pastry and filling the pie
- 200g butter, plus some for greasing
- 10g salt
- 575g plain flour, plus some for the board
- 220ml water
- 1 egg
- Preheat oven to 160℃ fan.
- Boil a kettle.
- Grease a 20cm springform cake tin.
- In a small bowl, beat the egg.
- In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt.
- Cut the butter into cubes, perhaps 2cm per side.
- Get your rolling pin and board ready, spread some flour on them.
- Now work quickly: combine the water and butter in a jug and mix thoroughly. If the butter is taking too long to melt and the whole thing has cooled down, top up the temperature with 30 seconds in the microwave.
- Pour your wet mix into the flour and rapidly combine it, kneading a little until you have a smooth dough with no dry flour.
- Take a quarter of the dough and wrap it in cling film.
- Roll the rest of the dough to a circle somewhat larger than the diameter of your tin plus twice its height.
- Transfer the dough to the tin, using it to line the base and sides. For now, leave any excess hanging over the sides.
- Fill the pie in the following order: half the meat filling, all the cranberry sauce, then the second half of the filling. The top should be slightly domed.
- Roll out the remaining dough and slice into 1cm strips.
- Make a lattice on the top of the pie with the strips of dough – leaving gaps (or at least one gap) big enough to poke a funnel through. If you’ve run out, cut off some of the overhanging pastry and roll them out to make up the shortfall.
- Brush the top with some of the beaten egg (you’ll only need a little of it)
- Bake for 45 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 140℃ fan, then bake for another 90 minutes.
- 4 gelatine leaves, or 1 sachet powdered gelatine
- 300ml veal or chicken stock
- Leave the pie to cool for at least an hour, preferably two.
- Warm the stock to close to boiling, then add and dissolve the gelatine in it.
- Pour the stock through a funnel into one or more holes in the lattice until it nearly overflows. Discard any excess stock.
- Refrigerate overnight for the jelly to set.