Tag: Pie

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.38: English Game Pie

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.38: English Game Pie

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
  1. If using frozen cranberries, defrost them.
  2. Add all ingredients into a pan, bring to the boil and simmer until cranberries are soft and the liquid is much reduced
  3. Pour into a bowl to cool

Meat filling

  • 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
  1. Finely mince the pork belly (or blitz in a food processor)
  2. 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.
  3. Chop the chestnuts coarsely.
  4. Chop the sage and the thyme finely.
  5. 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
  1. Preheat oven to 160℃ fan.
  2. Boil a kettle.
  3. Grease a 20cm springform cake tin.
  4. In a small bowl, beat the egg.
  5. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt.
  6. Cut the butter into cubes, perhaps 2cm per side.
  7. Get your rolling pin and board ready, spread some flour on them.
  8. 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.
  9. Pour your wet mix into the flour and rapidly combine it, kneading a little until you have a smooth dough with no dry flour.
  10. Take a quarter of the dough and wrap it in cling film.
  11. Roll the rest of the dough to a circle somewhat larger than the diameter of your tin plus twice its height.
  12. Transfer the dough to the tin, using it to line the base and sides. For now, leave any excess hanging over the sides.
  13. 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.
  14. Roll out the remaining dough and slice into 1cm strips.
  15. 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.
  16. Brush the top with some of the beaten egg (you’ll only need a little of it)
  17. Bake for 45 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 140℃ fan, then bake for another 90 minutes.

Finishing off

  • 4 gelatine leaves, or 1 sachet powdered gelatine
  • 300ml veal or chicken stock
  1. Leave the pie to cool for at least an hour, preferably two.
  2. Warm the stock to close to boiling, then add and dissolve the gelatine in it.
  3. Pour the stock through a funnel into one or more holes in the lattice until it nearly overflows. Discard any excess stock.
  4. Refrigerate overnight for the jelly to set.

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.3: Spanakopita

If you’re thinking of Greece and baking, the chances are that spanakopita is at or near the top of your list. But what exactly is it? The most usual answer is “spinach and feta pie”, but the truth is, you can take pretty much any leafy vegetable, any set of alliums, your favourite dairy products to enrich it (or not, if you’re vegan) and your favourite herbs and spices: wrap that in filo pastry in a shape of your choice (bite-sized or pan-sized), bake it and you get something that’s arguably a spanakopita. There are probably as many recipes as there are cooks.

The finished article – a view of the inside…

So I’m not in any way claiming that what follows is a definitive spanakopita. But I will claim that it’s tested, it’s absolutely delicious, it’s filling, it looks good, it doesn’t take all that long to make, it’s highly tolerant of inaccurate quantities and as long as you take it out of the oven before it starts burning, you’re unlikely to ruin it. In short, whether you’re a frequent vegetarian cook or not, it’s a winner.

…and in context, ready to be cut and served!

The filo pastry and butter is a given, and unless you’re going to opt for kale or other leaves, so is the spinach (the recipes I’ve seen recommend fresh non-young spinach, but all I have available in my local supermarket is the young stuff, and it works fine). For alliums, I like a mixture of leek, shallot, onion and garlic – but you can leave out at least two of these. For flavourings, I go for nutmeg and lemon rind, which gives a real zing, plus a mix of dill, oregano and flat leaf parsley. But again, the first time I made this, I only had parsley in the house, and it was fine. For enriching the filling, I like eggs and feta cheese with a generous dose of grated Parmesan. But you get the idea: don’t feel overly bound to my choices and quantities. Lots of variations will work. So here goes…

The recipe serves four generously as a meal on its own, or would do a starter for at least 8.

Equipment

I used a square 23cm x 23cm metal baking tin, which probably better than a thick ceramic dish, but you can adapt the instructions for whatever you have.

You’ll need a brush of some sort for spreading the butter – otherwise, you’re likely to break the filo too much – it’s very fragile.

The ingredients (minus the olive oil and nutmeg, which I forgot to put in the photo)

Ingredients

  • 400g fresh spinach (frozen is said to work well, but I haven’t tried)
  • 2 leeks – around 300g, 240g after trimming
  • 1 red onion – around 120g
  • 3 cloves garlic – around 20g
  • 1 banana shallot – around 50g
  • Bunch of dill
  • Bunch of oregano
  • Bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 200g feta cheese
  • 120g Parmesan or similar hard cheese
  • Rind of 1 lemon, grated
  • Grated nutmeg and salt to taste
  • 12 sheets of filo pastry (around 150g)
  • Melted butter for spreading – I needed around 100-120g
  • Olive oil for frying

Method

Here’s the usual collection of in-process shots:

Preheat oven to 180℃ fan.

  • Boil a kettle, put the spinach in a colander and pour the boiling water over it. Leave it to wilt and drain while you prepare the rest of the filling.
  • Chop the leeks, onion, shallot and garlic and fry gently in some oil (I add a bit of salt at this stage). Meanwhile, chop your herbs: when the mixture has gone transparent, add the chopped herbs and stir well so that everything is nicely blended. Keep frying gently for a few minutes until it’s all soft and beginning to go golden: don’t let it go dark brown. Remove from heat.
  • Crumble the feta into a large bowl, add the grated parmesan, beaten egg, lemon rind and nutmeg and mix thoroughly. Make sure the leek and onion mix is no hotter than lukewarm – you don’t want it to scramble the eggs – then combine it with the mixture. Now squeeze some water out of the spinach, add this, and stir/chop vigorously with a spoon or spatula  so that the filling is thoroughly blended – you don’t want lumps of cheese or lumps of pure spinach.
  • Spread a layer of melted butter over your oven dish or tin. Open your packet of filo and work quickly (the stuff dries out): spread two pieces across the bottom of the tin so that they hang over the sides, brush melted butter over the area lining the bottom and sides the tin now repeat this but going the opposite way. When you’ve done this, your square tin will have filo draped over each of its four sides. Repeat this twice, so you’re using 12 sheets of filo in total.
  • Pour your filling into the pastry-lined tin and even it out into a single, thick layer reaching the corners.
  • Take the overhanging edges of the last pair of pieces of filo you put in, wrap them back over the dish, and brush them with melted butter. Repeat for the remaining five pairs. Make sure you have enough butter left to give the top a good brushing: that’s what will make the pie go gold.
  • Bake for around 30-40 minutes, until a deep golden colour.

You can serve it straight out of the oven, cold for a picnic, or anywhere in between.