So if you’re a regular reader (or you’ve just stopped by in search of pie recipes – in which case welcome!), you’ll know that I’ve already published a step by step ‘how to make a pie‘ recipe. Do have a look at that one as it will give you invaluable tips on how to make pastry. This recipe kind of skips the basics, just because I don’t want to blab on and on about pastry (hey, it’s just pastry) and also because we’re now moving on to bigger, better, MORE EXCITING PIES!
For the pastry, you’ll need:
200g cold butter
400g plain flour
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
Making pastry by hand:
Cut the cold butter into cubes, and add it to the flour:
Add in the salt and pepper, and then rub in the butter gently with just your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs:
Now add the egg. It’s less messy initially so use a knife to just stir it around until it starts to come together. Then, with your hands, bring it together into a dough. Don’t knead it, remember, just treat it very gently.
Making pastry in the food processor
Chop the cold butter into cubes and add it to the flour, salt and pepper. Process it until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Now plop in the egg and pulse slowly until it comes together.
If it’s really dry, add a tablespoon or two of cold water, but you don’t want a wet mess, be very sparing.
At this stage, with either processor-made or hand-made pastry, you’ll have a rough ball of dough. Now just wrap it in clingfilm and chill for about 2o minutes.
Filling for the beef, pancetta and shallot pie:
Couple of tbsp rapeseed oil
Small bag of shallots, peeled (aim for two or three per person)
1 pack pancetta cubes or streaky bacon, snipped into pieces
1 pack diced beef (400-500g should do it)
2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned
About 200-300ml chicken stock (cube is fine)
So gently fry the shallots and pancetta/bacon in the oil until the onions are starting to colour. Remove them with a slotted spoon and keep to one side.
Now add in a bit more oil.
Toss the beef in the seasoned flour, then add to the pan a handful at a time, browning it off, then taking it out and adding the next lot. You might need some more oil.
When all the meat is browned, add a slosh of stock (or red wine if you’re feeling fancy) to the pan and bubble it up to pick up every last yummy bit that’s left in the bottom. If you’re not using an ovenproof casserole you’ll need to transfer it now, adding all the shallots, bacon and beef and the rest of the stock (you might need to add more later).
Pop a lid on and stick it in the oven at 190/gas 5 and give it an hour. You can put it straight in the pie at this stage, but the beef won’t be so tender. It’s worth cooking it for a while first.
While the filling is cooking, roll out the pastry.
Retrieve the pastry from the fridge, flour your work surface AND your rolling pin really well. Divide your pastry into two pieces: one about 2/3 for the base and the other 1/3 for the top (as you can tell by my picture, my 1/3 was a bit small and rolled out a bit thin, hence the cracks in the top of the pie – ah well)
Roll the larger piece out to about 5-6mm thick, moving the pastry around in 1/4 turns as you roll until you’ve got a rough circle. This will prevent the pastry from sticking to the work surface.
Roll the pastry up around the rolling pin, then unroll it over your pie dish. Push it down gently, and use little extra bits to fill any holes or cracks. Don’t worry too much – it’s home made!
Now if you’re using a proper metal pie dish, you shouldn’t need to blind bake (mine is by Mermaid, who do proper hard anodised aluminium tins that you can use on the hob and in the oven – they conduct the heat really well, resulting in nice, crisp pastry and an even bake) but if you’re a bit mental about crisp bottoms, it’s worth scrunching up a bit of greaseproof paper, lining your pie bottom, tipping in some baking beans, and giving it ten minutes in the oven. Not compulsory by any means, although if you have a ceramic dish, I’d definitely recommend it.
Now spoon in your cooled filling. If you put hot filling into the pie as it will begin to melt the butter and you’ll get the dreaded ‘soggy bottom’ (hence the reason I blind bake – I’m too impatient to let the filling cool).
Now do the same thing with the final third of pastry. Unroll it over your filling and crimp the edges with your fingers, or a fork so that they’re sealed together. If you’ve blind baked the bottom, wet the edge slightly so that the top sticks.
If you’re feeling arty, make some letters or cut out leaves or whatever. I sometimes write rude messages in pastry – very therapeutic. Pass swiftly on to the eggy wash department for a brush with beaten egg or milk (grab a passing child if you can) and pop in the oven for about half an hour at 180/gas 4.
And that’s it. Now, the world’s your oyster – any pie can be yours. Give yourself a round of applause.