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How to make mince pies – step by step

Tree mince pie small

So Mr English is home and the Christmas preparations can begin in earnest.  His favouritest thing in the whole world at Christmas time is a home made mince pie.   If you’ve only ever bought them, you’re missing a trick – they’re very easy and they make the whole house smell divine.  I love scenting the pastry with the zest and juice of a clementine, or you could try a teaspoon of cinnamon too, or just leave it plain – it’s your pie.  Here’s what you’ll need:

200g cold butter

400g plain flour

1 tbsp caster sugar

Pinch salt

1 egg

1 clementine or tangerine, zest and juice (optional)

Cold water and a tablespoon (have them ready)

First, then, cut your butter into little cubes and pop it into the food processor with the flour, sugar and a pinch of salt:

Butter small

Mix gently until it resembles breadcrumbs:

Breadcrumby

Now add the egg and the clementine juice and zest and let it continue stirring gently until the mixture just comes together.   Add a couple of tablespoons of cold water as it’s coming together so you end up with a nice, soft dough.  Obviously you can do this by hand if you don’t have a food processor.

Form the dough gently into two balls, clingfilm them and put them into the fridge for 20 mins.  Don’t leave them too long – rock hard pastry is not the easiest thing to handle.  One ball should make 12 pies.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas 5 and get ready to mess with your mincemeat.  Now, don’t get me wrong – normal mincemeat in a jar is fine, but let’s face it, there’s not much in life that can’t be improved with a bit of alcohol (trust me, it’s not time that’s a great healer, it’s booze), so splosh some in: I’m loving Pedro Ximenez at the moment, but anything will do: port, cherry brandy, Cointreau – whatever you have to pep it up.  I also add a handful of dried cranberries because I like the colour.  I’m also partial to a glacé cherry or two.  But don’t bother if you don’t want to.

So now, just roll the pastry out and use a cutter to make circles.  Pop the circles gently into a muffin tin and put a scant teaspoon of your boozy mincemeat in each one.  Don’t overfill or they’ll ooze everywhere and be very difficult to get out of the tin (sorry for the blurry picture – sticky hands) :

Pies

Now you can either cut out another slightly smaller circle to use as a lid, or just cut out something festive like a star or a tree, and pop on the top.  Now, pass the whole kit and caboodle onto the Eggy Wash Department (you’ll need a small, willing child for this – just use a little lightly beaten egg to paint over the pies and add a sprinkle of sugar):

Bake for about 10 – 15 minutes and that’s it, you made pies!  Give yourself a quick round of applause, then serve with more booze in the shape of some warm, mulled wine, or a lovely cup of tea.  And now you’ve got into the swing of it, try mixing it up.  The tree ones at the top were made in a deep-fill muffin pan with a plain cutter.  Or try topping your pies with sponge mixture like my festive pastry cakey pies.

star mince pies

Yeo Valley’s new cookbook and a rather fabulous souffléed egg and bacon tart

Souffléed egg and bacon tart

Souffléed egg and bacon tart

I do love a new cookbook. My family would say I already own far too many (if they could speak, my many groaning bookshelves would possibly attest to this), but there’s something lovely about ripping open the cardboard to find someone’s much-loved and oft-cooked recipes, delightfully photographed and neatly bound for posterity, ready for sharing.

I always think this is especially true with a first time author like Sarah Mayor. I like to imagine that she, like me, has a huge file on a kitchen shelf, jammed with hand-written, sometimes sticky recipes (especially given her immaculately foodie heritage, being the daughter of the founders of Yeo Valley farming family; the Meads). I imagine what a thrill it must be to see that scrappy file transformed into a brand new, glossy cookery book.

The book is a wonderful testament to everything that Yeo Valley holds dear: local, organic, fresh and seasonal. As I flicked through, marking pages of recipes I’d like to try (I know, a terrible habit, but I’ve always done it): marmalade glazed gammon (poached in West Country cider), deep trout fish cake with lemon butter and chive sauce (you guessed it, there’s trout in Blagdon Lake, running alongside the farm), it became clear that this is not only a rather wonderful country cookbook, but an absolute celebration of how we should be living right now. Modern food at its best.

And right there, as the postie walked away from the house, I decided I had to have a go at one of the recipes: a puffy, golden souffléd egg and bacon tart: a proper British picnic staple.

And, oh, the tart: light as air, cheesy, dotted generously with bacon and with pastry crisp and snappy. We devoured it. Never mind that it was about three o’clock in the afternoon and I was idly wondering about saving it for tea, maybe serving with some little rosemary potatoes and a nice salad. No, we descended upon that poor tart and devoured it. I’m not proud, but there was actually some arguing over the last slice.

I’m thinking that this one might not make it far away from the kitchen. My groaning shelves will heave a sigh of relief.

The Great British Farmhouse Cookbook (Yeo Valley) by Sarah Mayor is out now, priced £20.00 RRP

Beef, pancetta and shallot pie with black pepper pastry

Beef, pancetta and shallot pie

Beef, pancetta and shallot pie

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

Pinch salt

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 egg

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.

Frying off the pancetta and shallots

Frying off the pancetta and shallots

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.

Baking blind

Baking blind

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.

How to make a chicken pie (or any pie!): an easy step by step guide (including how to make pastry)

Pastry always seems a bit terrifying.  But honestly, have a think about it: it’s really just a vessel to hold delicious contents, all of which will spill out over your pastry making it all taste yummy anyway.  And if it’s a little thick or a bit uneven, who cares? That’s what home made food is all about.  If you know how to make a chicken pie (or any pie!) it’s such a versatile skill.  So come on, let’s dive in: practice makes perfect!

Pie dishes

A quick word about pie dishes.  By all means use a classic ceramic pie dish but you’ll get a much better result by using a metal tin. I swear by Mermaid, who do proper hard anodised aluminium tins that you can use on the  hob and in the oven (this one’s actually a tarte tatin dish) – they conduct the heat really well, resulting in nice, crisp pastry and an even bake.

How to make pastry

The best tip I can give you about making pastry is to keep everything as cool as possible.  Sweaty hands make for a big gluey mess, so try and keep to just using the tips of your fingers, and use a light touch.

For standard, shortcrust pastry, you’ll need:

200g cold butter

400g plain flour

Pinch salt

1 egg

You can make pastry in the food processor, or by hand.  Here are both versions:

Making pastry by hand:

Cut the cold butter into cubes, and add it to the flour:

… add in the salt, 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 and salt.  Process it until it looks like breadcrumbs.

Now plop in the egg and pulse slowly until it comes together.

Every time you make pastry it will be different: flours can have different moisture levels and eggs can be different sizes, but you should find it comes together into a ball quite well.  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.

This is the stage where you can get on with making your filling.  I’ve made a creamy chicken filling, but you can use your imagination and fill it with whatever you like: beef and mushrooms in gravy… fish in a creamy sauce… (or veggies) or, if you fancy a sweet pie (add a tablespoon of caster sugar to your pastry), apple, cherry… the list is endless.  Leftovers make fab pies. We always make turkey and ham on Boxing Day, and leftover curry makes a lovely pie too.

Filling for a creamy chicken pie

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 shallot, finely sliced

2 large free-range chicken breasts (or leftover chicken or turkey)

Couple of slices of nice ham (or leftover gammon, cut into chunks)

Dash of double cream

About 200-300ml chicken stock (cube is fine)

So gently fry the shallot in the oil until translucent and add in your cubes of chicken breast. Fry until just coloured (remember it’ll cook properly in the oven), then add the ham (snipped into little pieces, or chopped), season well (not too much salt – the ham’s salty) and then the splosh of cream.  Pour in the stock and leave to bubble away and reduce a little (you don’t want too much ‘juice’ in the pie as it will make the pastry soggy).  Add in some fresh herbs if you like, too.  Thyme is delicious with chicken, and so is tarragon.

Once your filling is done, leave it to one side to cool while you roll out the pastry.  Oh, and this is a good time to preheat the oven to 180/gas 4.

Rolling out the pastry

Retrieve it 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.

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.  Remember: it doesn’t have to be perfect!

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 spoon in your cooled filling.  Don’t put hot filling into the pie as it will begin to melt the butter and you’ll get the dreaded ‘soggy bottom’!

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’re feeling arty, make some letters (I’m desperate to do a pie that says ‘bum’) or cut out leaves or whatever.  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 yes, sometimes it all goes wrong (this one needed that extra bit of cold water – the patry was far too crumbly) just laugh at yourself and serve it up anyway – it will still taste lovely! (oh, and writing BUM on it is excellent therapy too, trust me).

And that’s it. YOU MADE A PIE!  You’re a genius.

Ugly face chicken pies for bonfire night

I’m not completely sure where I first saw this recipe.  Rest assured it wasn’t my idea – I’m thinking maybe Martha Stewart or somewhere like that?

Anyhoo, if you’re entertaining on bonfire night, these little beauties are a great talking point.  If you don’t fancy chicken, just fill them with your usual minced beef recipe, or even just squeeze sausagemeat out of the casing to fill them.

The teenagers, you’ll  be delighted to know, took me to task over my original ‘scary’ description in the title, and said that it should be ‘grumpy’ or maybe ‘ugly’, so ugly it is, but if you want to make smiley ones go for it – they’re your pies, after all.

You will need:

3 chicken breasts, cut into small chunks

1 onion, finely chopped

Ham, cut into small chunks

1 tbsp flour

Chicken stock (about 200ml)

Seasoning

Making the filling:

So sauté the onions in a couple of tablespoons of rapeseed oil.  Add in the chicken and fry until it’s lightly browned.  Bung in the ham, then add in a tablespoon of flour, salt and pepper, and about 200ml chicken stock.  Stir well and cook gently for a while, just until the ‘rawness’ of the flour disappears and the sauce looks creamy.  Add in some thyme here if you like. It’s my favourite flavour with chicken.

The pastry:

If you want to make your own pastry, rub 200g of cold butter into 400g of plain flour, then add in 3 or 4 tablespoons of cold water until it just comes together.  If you’d rather buy it, that’s fine too.

Preheat your oven to gas 4/180 degrees.  Roll out your pastry and line a 6 hole yorkshire pudding tin (or individual little pie dishes) with pastry.

Baking blind:

You don’t have to blind bake these, but the bottoms will be crisper and they’ll hold together better.  Up to you.  Scrunch up some squares of greaseproof paper, then smooth out and pop on top of each pastry base – pour in baking beans (I use some old dried haricot beans that I keep especially for blind baking) and bake for about ten minutes.  Then remove the beans and give them another 5 minutes.

Making the pies:

Now roll out the rest of the pastry and cut out your scary faces (I cut round a saucer, then used a piping nozzle for the holes).  Fill generously with the chicken mixture then top with the pies.  A quick pass through the eggy wash department and your ugly faces are ready for the oven.

Bake for about 15/20 minutes until golden.  Pair with mini baked potatoes and maybe some roasted butternut squash soup and you’re good to go.  Have a great bonfire night.  Oh and be careful out there!

Lime meringue pie: In which the DWC makes me a birthday surprise

As you know, it’s one of our slightly less mental traditions at English Towers that the birthday person gets to choose whatever they like for their birthday cake.  Usually, da brevren compete with each other to find the most complicated (The Mad Professor), chocolate-filled (the Death Wish Child), or retro (English Dad) recipes they can possibly find.  And then, of course, when it’s my birthday, I just make whatever I fancy.

This year turned out to be a bit different.  ‘I’m going to make your birthday cake’, said the Death Wish Child, confidently.  ‘What would you like?’.

‘Well’, said I, ‘what I would really really like is lemon meringue pie.  No, lime meringue pie, but don’t worry, I’ll help’.

‘Nope’, said the small confident one, while imaginary fireworks and laser beams went off behind him.  ‘*I* shall make the pie’.  So sit back and enjoy, while my wonderful offspring takes you through his birthday pie:

First you need a pastry bottom (although I suspect that I might already have one):

For the pastry, you’ll need:

200g cold butter

400g plain flour

Pinch salt

1tbsp caster sugar

1 egg yolk

4 or 5 tbsp cold water

Firstly, preheat the oven to 180/gas 4.  It’s easiest to do this in the food processor (the pastry, not the preheating. That would be silly. And anyway, you’d never fit the oven in there), but you can do it by hand if you’re not as lazy as us.

Chop your cold butter into squares and add it to the flour, salt and sugar.  Process it until it looks like breadcrumbs.

Now plop in the egg yolk and pulse slowly, adding tablespoonfuls of water until it just comes together.

Flour the work surface (and your trousers, and your mother, and the floor) and squish the mixture together into a ball.  Roll it out to about 5-6mm thick, then roll it onto your rolling pin and unroll over your flan dish or baking tin  (about 24cm should do it).  When it all breaks apart, swear a bit and kind of patch it together. Nobody will notice.  Push it in to the edges and trim the top.

Now to bake it blind: scrunch up a bit of greaseproof paper, then smooth it over the pastry and pour in some baking beans – you can use ceramic or whatever. I’ve got some old dried beans – for about 15 minutes.

Then take it out of the oven, remove the baking beans and put it back in to cook the bottom (ooer) for about another 5 minutes, then take it out and leave to cool.  Turn the oven down to gas 2/150 degrees.

Meanwhile, make the lime curd.  We use bottled lime juice in this house, but if you want to juice several limes, be my guest:

100g butter

6 tbsp lime juice (or for lemon curd, 2 lemons, zested then juiced)

150g caster sugar

2 eggs plus 1 extra yolk (keep the white for the meringue)

Take a saucepan and bung in the butter, juice, zest and caster sugar.  Melt it all together slowly until the sugar is all dissolved.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until well combined.  Now, take your warm, limey, butter mixture and gently pour a little bit into the egg, whisking all the time, then a bit more, then a bit more, until you’ve combined about half of it with the eggs.  Now bung that lot back into the saucepan and keep whisking and simmering until the mixture thickens.  Make sure there’s someone behind you at this point shouting ‘WHISK! WHISK FASTER!’.

Turn off the heat and leave to cool.  Remember to just stir it occasionally to keep it from getting a skin on.  When it’s about room temperature, pour it into the pastry case and pop into the fridge to cool.

Finally, for the meringue:

4 egg whites

225g caster sugar

Whisk the eggs in a very clean bowl until they form firm peaks, then keep whisking while you add the sugar, spoon by spoon, until it’s all incorporated and the meringue is thick and glossy.  Pile it all on top of the lemon curd and fluff it up a bit (or you can pipe it like my man here):

Bake in the very low oven (gas 2/150 degrees) for about 40 to 50 minutes, depending on how squelchy you like your meringue.   If it’s a Special Birthday Meringue Pie, you can decorate it and add candles.

Then sit down with some pink champagne and blow your candles out, wishing with all your heart that you get to spend every birthday just like this, with the people that you love.

Thanks, Charlie xxxx

A teeny weeny creamy chicken and ham pie

So I might have mentioned that, along with one child, the only other stuff I could bring when we set sail for the fair Emerald Isle was whatever I could fit in the car (oh, and the Cat of Death – but you’ve heard that story). We squeezed in a few pots and pans, my scales, some cups and plates, but not a great deal else. All the rest of it will be arriving with the shippers some time the week after next.

Tuesday night found us watching the Great British Bakeoff on BBC2, and drooling as they made pies. In between shouting at the telly (he’s his father’s son) about how pies SHOULD have a soggy bottom and that was the best bit and what did that old fart know about pies and WHO IS HE ANYWAY?, The Mad Professor got a bit misty eyed: ‘ooh’, he said, ‘I love pie, though…’. ‘Me too’, said the Death Wish Child, ‘remember the turkey and ham pie you did the day after Christmas? Lush.’

After drifting off into a bit of a pie-induced reverie for a couple of minutes, I decided that the next day I would cobble together a pie if it killed me, utensils or no utensils.

The next day dawned and I had a look in my somewhat bare cupboards and thought that maybe my wine-induced pie decision of last night was a little optimistic. The first thing that was lacking was a pie dish, but still, I grabbed a big Denby soup bowl and sure enough it was oven proof so that was fine. I also had my digital scales, a bowl and a glass to roll out the pastry. Done.

So I set to work. You can make yours much more attractive, I’m sure:

1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 shallot, finely sliced
2 large free-range chicken breasts (or leftover turkey, if it’s Christmas)
Couple of slices of nice ham (not oddly wet plastic crap ham purleeese)
Dash of double cream
1/2 cup chicken stock (yes I had to use a mug, but use about 200-300ml)

For the pastry:

200g plain flour
100g butter, cold
Pinch salt

So gently fry the shallot in the oil until translucent and add in your cubes of chicken breast. Fry until just coloured (remember it’ll cook properly in the oven), then add the ham (snipped into little pieces), season well (not too much salt – the ham’s salty) and then the splosh of cream.  Pour in the stock and leave to bubble away and reduce. It could do with a handful of herbs really, but all I’ve got is nettles and I didn’t want to risk it.

Meanwhile, make the pastry. Add the cold, cubed butter to the flour…

… add in the salt, and then rub in the butter gently with just your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs:

Now add in a couple of tablespoons of cold water and bring it together so it forms a lump. If you’re a top and bottom lover like we are here at English Towers, use about two thirds for your base, and a third for the lid, otherwise make a really big pie lid, or save some for another day.

Chill the pastry for a little while (I can’t work with it when it’s too cold, but give it 20 minutes).  Now I appreciate mine looked like a dog’s breakfast, but I did my best, pressing the pastry into the bowl and rolling a lid with a glass tumbler.

Remember to allow the chicken mixture to cool slightly before you pop it into your pastry dish and top with the lid. Once you’ve crimped it, trim round the edge with a knife – you might have enough left for some ridiculously simplistic lettering like mine.  Pass swiftly on to the eggy wash department for a brush with beaten egg (nope, didn’t have a brush either) and pop in the oven for about half an hour at 180 degrees.

Eat, with grateful children, and be really smug that you can live without the contents of your kitchen for a couple of weeks (y’hear that shippers? A couple of weeks or I’m going to HUNT YOU DOWN). What? Oh nothing.

DWXUDM8D7TZS

Mince pies. And why most things are improved with a slosh of booze.

Boozy Pastry Mincey Cakey Pie

Deep breaths, then, and enough of this doom and gloom.  Hell, it’s Christmas. 

Seeing as I’m currently obsessing about mince pies, I thought I’d share my latest ressup with you.  It’s the pastry, see?  I thought I had it perfect, but it was too short, too ‘dissolve into crumbs as soon as you pick it up’, which is perfect in some ways, but mince pies need to be handled.  The pastry needed to be crisper.  And several hundred later, by jove I think I’ve got it.  Brace yourself, then:

The perfect mince pie.  Honest.

250g cold butter

400g plain flour

1 tbsp caster sugar

Pinch salt

1 egg yolk

First, then, cut your butter into little cubes and bung it in your wondrously gorgeous food processor (I love you, Jen)with the flour, sugar and a pinch of salt:

Butter small

Mix gently until it resembles breadcrumbs:

Breadcrumby

Now add your egg yolk and let it continue stirring gently until the mixture just comes together.  If it’s really not happening you can add a tablespoon of water or orange juice (or rosewater if you’re really posh), but you want a firm dough, remember, so don’t go mad.

Now, splodge the dough gently into two balls, clingfilm them and whop them into the fridge for 20 mins.  Don’t leave them too long – rock hard pastry is a sod to roll out.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas 5 and get ready to mess with your mincemeat.  Now, don’t get me wrong – normal mincemeat in a jar is fine, but let’s face it, there’s not much in life that can’t be improved with a bit of alcohol (moved country? Miss your friends?  Trust me, it’s not time that’s a great healer, it’s booze), so splosh some in: I’m loving Cherry Brandy at the moment, but anything will do: Port, Brandy, Cointreau – whatever you have to pep it up a tad.  I also add a handful of dried cranberries because I like the colour.  But don’t bother if you don’t want to.

So now, just roll the pastry out and use a cutter to make circles.  Pop the circles gently into a muffin tin and put a scant teaspoon of your boozy mincemeat in each one :

Pies

Now you can either cut out another slightly smaller circle to use as a lid, and pass the whole kit and caboodle onto the Eggy Wash Department (you’ll need a small, willing child for this – just use the leftover egg white to paint over the pies and add a sprinkle of sugar):

Eggy wash department

Or you can whip up a quick Madeira cake batter by creaming 100g butter with 100g caster sugar until light and fluffy, then beating in 2 eggs, a splash of vanilla extract and finally folding in 100g self raising flour.  Blob a small amount (about a dessert spoonful) on top of each mince pie to make pastry mincey cakey pies:

Add cakey bit

And that’s it.  Bake for about 10 – 15 minutes and serve with more booze in the shape of some warm, mulled wine.  Ah lubly.  I feel better already.

Chicken & broccoli pie with step by step easy shortcrust pastry

Blimey, I'm going to need a bigger board... (c) Englishmum.com

A funny thing happened on Friday afternoon. A chap knocked on the door and delivered an enormous wicker hamper, stuffed with every possible seasonal vegetable you can imagine. I was in the garden, and was, frankly, slightly confused when #2 came out to find me and declare that ‘some bloke just dropped off a big box of broccoli and stuff’. Anyhoo, it turned out not to be an anonymous food parcel from the locals, (bless ‘em, they’ve had to stand by, helpless, whilst witnessing my shambolic attempts at gardening), but a ‘Best in Season’ hamper from those lovely chaps at Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board. So our weekend was full of absolutely yummy produce, all available right now in an Irish field near you (or a supermarket, if you’re lazy).

Saturday morning, we had a lovely big fry up, along with a huge stir-fry of big, fat tomatoes, lovely fresh mushrooms and some sliced red and yellow peppers.  Saturday evening, we had a big pot of leek and potato soup, with some home made cheese bread, and today I set to work making the mother of all pies.  So start with the filling then.  You’ll need:

1 carrot, diced

1 onion, finely chopped

1 stick celery, diced

4 chicken breasts

1 head of broccoli, split into florets (or 1 leek, which are also fabulous at the moment, sliced)

1 tbsp flour

300ml chicken stock

Slug of double cream

Grab a heavy-based casserole or frying pan, pour in a couple of tablespoons of oil, then throw in the carrot, onion and celery.  Fry gently until the vegetables soften, then add in the cubed chicken breasts.  A sprinkle of thyme would be lovely here, unfortunately I managed to kill mine.  Season well and continue to fry until the chicken starts to go opaque (it doesn’t need to be cooked through), then sprinkle over the tablespoon of flour.  Carry on stirring while you pour in the chicken stock and add in a big slug of double cream:

Add slug of cream (c) Englishmum.com

Now leave the chicken on a low heat to bubble gently and reduce a tiny bit while you quickly blanch some broccoli  in some boiling salted water and make the pastry.

A Pastry Pep-talk

Now, I feel a little word about pastry is called for here.  Let’s face it, pastry’s a pain in the arse.  Frankly, EVERYONE is crap at pastry.  It falls apart, or it’s too dry, or it sticks to the board…  but that’s kind of the point: it’s supposed to look homemade, so if it’s a bit wonky, or you have to patch it or whatever, who cares?  It’ll still be a pie that you made with your own fair hands, and infinitely the better for it.  There.  I’ll get off my soap box now.

There’s no big ‘secret’ to pastry making, although keeping everything cool and using a light touch definitely helps.  For a basic shortcrust pastry ‘pie lid’, you’ll need:

 115g plain flour

Pinch of salt

60g cold butter, cubed

Couple tbsp cold water

So weigh out the flour, add in a pinch of salt, then throw in the butter. 

(c) Englishmum.com

Now lightly, with just the very tips of your fingers, start to break up the lumps of butter, rubbing them gently into the flour until you get a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs:

Pastry at the breadcrumb stage

Now, sprinkle over a couple of tablespoons of very cold water, and with a knife, start to bring the mixture together:

(c) Englishmum.com

If it’s a little dry, sprinkle on a tiny bit more, until you can gently bring it together into a ball with your hands:

(c) Englishmum.com

If you’re doing the pastry in advance, wrap it in clingfilm and leave it somewhere cool (I find it gets too hard in the fridge, but it’s up to you).  Otherwise, sprinkle with a little more flour and roll out, turning 1/4 turn with each roll and making sure it’s not sticking, until it’s slightly bigger than your pie dish or casserole. 

Back to the chicken, then.  Now just drain the broccoli  and add in to the chicken.  Don’t worry if there seems to be a bit of excess liquid as some will disappear during cooking.  Now just roll your pastry lid over your rolling pin and unroll it over the top of your pie.  Because I’m lazy, and let’s face it, this is just home cooking, I just leave it in the casserole and fling the pastry lid on top, tucking over the edges, but if you’re entertaining or whatever, you can put the contents into a pie dish and neatly crimp the edges, brushing with a little milk to glaze the top.

The English Mum 'hurl it in' pastry lid technique

And that’s it.  Bung the pie in the oven at gas 4/180 for 20 – 30 minutes until it’s golden brown, and serve with more seasonal vegetables (we had honey roasted parsnips, carrots, peas and creamy mashed potato), then just sit back and bask in the glory especially reserved for people who make their own pies. 

Go on, you deserve it.

 (c) Englishmum.com

PS: Big, huge thanks to Bord Bia for all my lovely fresh goodies.  If you want to know what’s in season now, check out Best in Season for ideas, recipes, stuff for kids, and links to some rather fantastic food blogs *cough*.

Apple pies: Northern Ireland’s finest.

 

Blob a spoonful into each pastry case

Ah, Northern Ireland.  How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  I have several equally random reasons; one: we’re only about an hour away and it’s rather nice to be able to pop to the shops in a different country.  Two: the shopping’s much cheaper than here – and it’s an extra thrill to shop in my native sterling too (and until Southern Irish shops stop ripping off their customers I’ll feel no shame in doing so).  Three, there’s the fact that whenever we go up there, the people are really nice, ooh, and four: the shopping is fab, oh and five: our lovely friend Tom happens to hark from that neck of the woods, and six: their accent is just lovely to listen to…  I could ramble on, but another fantastically good reason is that their Bramley apples are just amazing.  And here’s a completely useless fact: did you know that annually, Northern Ireland produces over 35000 tonnes of the big, fat, gorgeous beauties?  Most of these go to make cider (why doesn’t that surprise you?) but a few of them make it back to English Towers, where their lovely, fluffy tartness make for rather nice pies.  First you need to make some ridiculously fattening, buttery pastry:

200g plain flour

pinch of salt

150g cold butter

2 tbsp caster sugar

So add the pinch of salt into the flour, then cut the cold butter into little squares and gently rub them in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Stir in the sugar and then add about 2 tbsp cold water.  Just enough to make the pastry come together.  It will seem dry, but crumbly dough will make for lighter pastry.  Trust your Aunty EM here.  Wrap up your pastry and leave it to rest somewhere cool while you tackle your Bramleys.

2 large Bramley apples

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 egg (or just some milk)

1 tsp cinnamon/extra sugar

Preheat the oven to 180/gas 4 before you forget, then take a couple of large apples, peel, core and dice them and pop them into a saucepan.  Add a couple of tbsp of caster sugar (depending on how tart you like your filling) and a whoosh of water from the tap.  Gently cook the apples until they’re just tender, but not complete mush, and set aside to cool slightly.

Don't stew the apple too much

Now, retrieve the pastry, roll it out and cut out 12 large circles and 12 smaller ones with a pastry cutter.   Don’t worry if you’re as cack handed as I am with pastry – they’re supposed to look home-made.  Gently pop the larger circles into the holes of a 12-hole muffin tin.  Next, bung a tbsp of your lovely apple purée into each case:

Don't worry about perfect pastry

…and top with a smaller circle.  Beat the egg with a fork and brush a little onto each pie (or just use a dab of milk), then sprinkle with a little extra sugar and perhaps some cinnamon (to add a pleasing smell to your kitchen, if nothing else). 

Now it would do you well to remember here that pie filling fresh from the oven  is possibly the hottest substance known to man so try to prevent your offspring getting third degree mouth burns until the molten apple lava has calmed down a bit, then serve immediately with a big blob of mascarpone, or some lovely vanilla ice cream.  Yum yum pig’s bum, as Auntie L would say.

Buttery pastry and soft fluffy apple.  Yum.

Step by step: lemon meringue pie

 Pie.  Keep your pointy implement handy.

 I’m still struggling with this photography lark, y’know.  It’s not easy trying to take classy pictures when you’re up to your elbows in egg whites.  I’m going to wreck my camera at this rate.  Still, here we go with another step by step: this time a classic lemon meringue pie.

For the pastry, you’ll need:

115g butter, melted

100g caster sugar

175g plain flour

Pinch of salt

Firstly, preheat the oven to 180/gas 4.  Pour the melted butter into the sugar and stir.  Then add the flour and teeny pinch of salt and mix it around until it becomes a thick paste.  Press the mixture into your flan dish or baking tin  (about 24cm should do it), then bake it blind (scrunch up a bit of greaseproof paper, then smooth it over the pastry and pour in the baking beans) for about 15 minutes.  Then take it out of the oven, remove the baking beans and put it back in to cook the bottom (ooer) for about another 5 minutes, then take it out and leave to cool.  Turn the oven down to gas 2/150 degrees.

Meanwhile, make the lemon curd:

100g butter

2 lemons, zested then juiced

150g caster sugar

2 eggs plus 1 extra yolk (keep the white for the meringue)

Take a saucepan and bung in the butter, lemon juice and zest and caster sugar.  Melt it all together slowly until the sugar is all dissolved.  In a bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until well combined.  Now, take your warm, lemony, butter mixture and gently pour a little bit into the egg, whisking all the time, then a bit more, then a bit more, until you’ve combined about half of it with the eggs.  Now bung that lot back into the saucepan and keep whisking and simmering until the mixture thickens.  Turn off the heat and leave to cool.  Remember to just stir it occasionally to keep it from getting a skin on.  When it’s about room temperature, pour it into the pastry case.

Finally, for the meringue:

4 egg whites

225g caster sugar

Whisk the eggs in a very clean bowl until they form stiff peaks, then keep whisking while you add the sugar, spoon by spoon, until it’s all incorporated and the meringue is thick and glossy.  At this point, it’s best to keep passing children from all trying to nab fingerfulls of the meringue mixture.  I find something pointy helps here.  Pile it all on top of the lemon curd and fluff it up a bit.  Bake in the very low oven (gas 2/150 degrees) for about 40 to 50 minutes, depending on how squelchy you like your meringue.  Guard the pie with your pointy implement until it’s at room temperature, then quickly take it into the bathroom, lock the door, and stuff into face.

Nanny Annie’s ‘Pastry Mincemeat Cakey Thing’ Muffins

Ta da!

Every year, Hubby gets all demanding about mince pies, requiring a constant supply, especially of these little beauties which are an adaptation of his favourite childhood treat, his Ma’s Pastry Jammy Cakey Things.  Obviously because these ones contain mincemeat rather than jam they had to be renamed, but still, I think it’s quite a catchy title don’t you?  Now I know I’ve done these before, but I’ve twiddled the recipe (as usual) and I thought I’d do you a little festive step by step.  On your marks, then:

First, for the pastry.  I’m always messing with my pastry recipe, but I really think this one is the best so far, and the Mince Pie Monster agrees, so it must be okay.

200g plain flour

pinch salt

150g cold butter

2 tbsp caster sugar

About 2 tbsp cold water

So pop the pinch of salt into the flour, then cut the butter into teeny squares, and gently rub the butter into the flour until it’s breadcrumby.  Stir in the sugar, then add in the cold water until it just comes together.  Hubby’s Ma taught me that the best way with pastry is to keep it as dry as humanly possible.  You’ll think it’s too dry, but actually when you squish it, it’ll stay together.  Preheat your oven to 180/gas 4 while you remember.

Roll it out and cut out 12 circles with a pastry cutter.  Gently pop the circles into the bottoms of 12 muffin cases:

Start with the pastry cases

Next blob a teaspoon or so of mincemeat into each little pastry case:

 then add the mincemeat...

Leave them somewhere cool while you whip up a quick sponge mix (if you’re making lots, make it 170g/3 eggs):

115g butter

115g caster sugar

115g self raising flour

1tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

Cream the butter and sugar until really light and fluffy, then add in the vanilla extract, then the eggs, beating after each one.  Now gently fold in the flour.  If the mixture’s a bit stiff (this’ll depend on the size of your eggs), add a splash or two of milk.  So now blob a spoonful of your cake mix on top of each mince pie:

...then the sponge mixture

Mix a teaspoon of sugar with half a teaspoon of cinnamon and sprinkle a little pinch on each cake, for added festiveness, and to fill your house with the gorgeous seasonal scent of cinnamon.  Then just whack them in the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes and you’ll be delighted to discover a light muffin with a pastry base and a little mincemeat surprise in the middle.

Nice one, Nanny.

Chicken and Thyme Pie

I love baking.  Especially a nice pie.  Okay, so it’s a bit of a faff, but give it a try; it’s worth it for the wow factor when you cut it at the table.  And you know what Oscar Wilde said: ‘one should try everything once.  With the possible exceptions of incest and morris dancing’.

4 chicken breasts

500ml good chicken stock

Couple of stems of fresh thyme

2-3 peppercorns

1 carrot, diced

1 onion, sliced

Handful frozen peas

1 tsp butter and 1 tbs plain flour to thicken

Seasoning

For the pastry:

250g plain flour

125g butter

1 egg

Pinch salt

So start with the chicken – get the stock bubbling away on the stove, snip the chicken into bite-sized cubes, and pop it into the stock along with the thyme, peppercorns, carrot and onion (I always leave onion in quite big pieces as #2 likes to irritate me by picking it out).  I know you’d probably normally chuck thyme on top of roasting stuff, but trust me, it really adds a little something here.  So leave the chicken to simmer away and get on with the pastry.  You know my view on pastry – don’t ponce about, if you don’t like making it, just buy it, but if you’ve got a food processor, whizz the flour and butter together until breadcrumby, then just whizz in the egg and generous pinch of salt.  When it starts to come together, squish it into a ball, then wrap it in clingfilm and pop it in the fridge.

When the chicken’s completely cooked through (probably 20 minutes, depending on your chunk sizes), fish it out and reserve it while you reduce the stock (make sure you fish out the thyme and peppercorns at this stage too).  It would benefit from a splash of cream here (ooh, lovely with some sliced mushrooms…yum), but Hubby’s not a fan of creamy sauces so I left it out.  If you like a thicker sauce, mush together a teaspoon of flour with the same amount of butter and whisk it in.  Season to taste.  Add back your chicken, along with the frozen peas, then turn it off while you roll out about 2/3 of your pastry and line your pie dish.

If you can be arsed, it really helps to blind bake the lined pie dish to stop your pie having a soggy bottom(altogether now ‘and nobody likes a soggy bottom’).  Put some greaseproof paper loosely in the dish, then pour in some baking beans (or just any old dry beans) and bake it for about 15 minutes.  Remove the beans and greaseproof paper, and brush with beaten egg to seal, returning to the oven for 5 minutes.  But if you don’t want to, don’t bother; I won’t tell.

Now roll out the pastry lid, place it on top of the pie and crimp it artistically.  Brush with beaten egg, then put the whole thing back in the oven until the top is golden brown.  Remember you’re only cooking the lid really so 20 minutes should be fine.

It’s a standing joke in our house that #1 (aka A A Gill) will always find something not quite to his taste at the table.  The roast potatoes are never quite as good as Auntie Jen’s (curse you, Jennifer, what the hell did you do to them?), the sauce will be a tad salty, the rhubarb a little too tart.  All this will be commented upon whilst enormous quantities of the slightly sub-standard food are whooshed into his mouth, along with seconds, and often thirds.  Still, nothing’s ever completely up to scratch.  This one, though, actually shut him up.  Yup, we all waited with baited breath, but no, not a single comment.  Things must be looking up.

Pear and vanilla tart

So pastry, then.  Well it’s a bit of a sod, frankly and I try not to bother if at all possible.  I always get it all stuck to the rolling pin (not being the dantiest of bakers) but hey, my family don’t mind my rustic baking.  I was telling me Ma, then, about Bill Granger’s fantastically easy pastry made with melted butter.  He pinched it off Patricia Wells so I, in turn, pinched it off him, then twiddled it a bit (I know, I just can’t help it).  It makes beautiful, shortbready pastry which is perfect for any kind of pie, but specifically for fruit pies as it absorbs a bit of excess liquid and still remains yummy.

It’s dead easy, too:

4oz butter

4 oz caster sugar

6 oz plain flour

So just melt the butter, stir it in to the sugar and then add in the flour, stirring until it makes a nice soft dough, then press it into a loose bottomed tart tin (ooer) with your fingers, pushing it up the edges.  And that’s it – you’re a pastry goddess (or god, natch).  Bung it in a moderate oven (180/gas 4) for about 15 minutes (keep an eye on it, the baking time will depend on the size of tin/thickness of pastry), no baking beans required.

Now to the filling – basically the world’s your oyster: got fresh cherries?  Perfect.  Strawberries?  Yep, those too.  Only got a tin of pears?  They’ll do fine.  Just make sure you drain whatever you use quite well (especially if the fruit was frozen).  Don’t put any extra juice in as, let’s face it, nobody likes a soggy tart, do they.  I sliced a couple of over-ripe pears from the fruit bowl and arranged them not very artfully in the tart base.  Mr Hyper-critical said I should have peeled them first but he still managed to force down about four slices.

Next make your custardy stuff.  If you’re feeling flash, use cream.  Otherwise milk will do just fine too:

2 tbsp plain flour

3 tbsp caster sugar

1/4 pint cream or milk

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract (not essence!)*

Mix the sugar and flour in a bowl, then whisk the eggs, cream and vanilla in a jug, pour into the sugar and flour and mix it all together.  Pour this over your fruit and bake the whole lot (on a baking tray in case of accidents, people!).  It’ll probably take at least 40 minutes to set, but again, this depends on your filling.  It might need a bit longer.

Leave it to cool slightly then slice and serve with cream.  It’s rather yummy cold too.  Can I say here that I didn’t have a wide enough tart tin so my pastry got a little too brown before the centre was cooked.  Hey, at least I’m honest. 

*NOTE: For the poncy amongst us, yes you can put your cream or milk on the hob, split a fresh vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds then warm the whole lot gently, reserving the pod before cooling and adding the rest of the ingredients .  But frankly, it’s just as easy to add a couple of teaspoons of good vanilla extract.  I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Baked Salmon Parcels

Happy Boxing Day! Or Happy St Stephen’s Day, depending on where you reside. I hope, dear reader, that your Christmas Day was as happy and mad as ours. The smalls didn’t get up until 8am (very satisfying, especially as Lou next door was up at 5am – no, of course I’m not smirking). Hubby and I had next door round for drinks and proceeded to get very happy (proof in itself that you can leave a turkey for an hour and a half in foil with no ill effects – it was certainly rested), ending in an unfeasibly giggly Christmas dinner that was enjoyed by all (oh, apart from the chestnuts but that’s another story). I got some lubly presents, including a beautiful heart necklace from Hubby with a pink diamond in the middle, and more cookery books than you can shake a stick at. Small Eric Clapton and Smaller Slash got the guitars of their dreams. The rest of the day passed in an ear splitting blur of riffs and jagged feedback. Bliss.

Anyhoo, digressing. To the baked salmon. There’s a great fishmonger near us (bit of a rarity these days I’d say) who’ll cut you the biggest fleshiest chunks of salmon that make perfect baked parcels. We usually wrap them in baking paper or foil, but if you’re feeling flash, you can wrap them in pastry too and they’re divine.

For the salmon:

4 large chunks of salmon fillet (boneless)
½ pack butter
1 fennel bulb
Dill
1 onion
Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 200/gas whatever (6?). So slice your fennel and onion very finely, melt a large knob of butter in the pan, add a pinch of salt and some ground black pepper and cook them slowly until they’re translucent (they don’t need to be done, they’ll get another 20 mins in the oven). Cut four large squares of greaseproof paper or foil, pile a spoonful of the onion/fennel mixture into the middle of each square, then plonk your salmon on top. Add a sprig of dill and an extra knob of butter, maybe a bit more seasoning, then fold up into a parcel and plonk onto a baking tray. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes (depending on the thickness of your salmon) and serve, with a flourish, still in the parcels, so your guests get treated to a lovely fenelly facial sauna as they open their parcel.

If you’re feeling flash, knock up some pastry:

9 oz plain flour
5 oz cold butter, cubed
1 egg, beaten

First, mix the flour and butter in a food processor, slowly adding the egg until it comes together (or do it the tried and tested English Mum way, which is to shove it all in then add the whole egg and hope for the best – if it’s a bit sticky add some more flour). Or to do it the old fashioned way, rub the butter in to the flour, and bring together with the egg. Squish your pastry into a flat lump and cool in the fridge for half an hour (or however long – it’ll keep in there). Then just roll out your pastry, cut into squares, then dollop your mixture in and wrap your salmon with the pastry as you would a parcel. One word of warning – if you opt for the pastry version, be less generous with the knob of butter on top or you’ll end up with a very soggy bottom (and who needs a soggy bottom eh?). After I’ve done the first wrap, I roll the edges with the rolling pin and discard any extra before bringing them to the top, which both seals them and ensures they’re not too thick. These will take about half an hour. Serve and bedazzle!

Sausage and egg pie

Seeing as, thanks to King Jamie of Oliver, I’m now a whiz with a bit of pastry, I decided to whip up dinner last night in the shape of a kind of sausage and egg pie/quiche effort. Poor B the greyhound was sent wild by the smell of sausages, her little nose twitching and wiggling as she sat in her usual ‘helping with the cooking’ spot, bang in front of the sink. No matter how many times she gets cracked on the head by the dishwasher door, as far as she’s concerned this is her spot and she’s sticking to it.

Anyway, seeing as I’ve been banging on about dogs recently, I thought I’d give you a little bakery interlude to get you busy in the kitchen. Here goes:

8 oz plain flour
5 oz butter
1 egg yolk (bung the extra white in with the others if you can’t bear to waste it)
Couple tablespoons cold water
½ tsp salt
Pack of nice sausages (not those horrid cheap supermarket ones – I think it was my Dad that used to say they’re ‘made with lips and *rseholes’ – oops sorry, I’ll put you off your dinner)
3 eggs
Splash milk
2 or 3 oz Cheese (grated) MUST be Irish. Oh okay not really but Wexford cheddar is particularly yummy

That’s it!

So..whiz the flour and butter together until it kind of looks breadcrummy, or rub it in if you don’t have the benefit of wondrous shiny stainless steel machine that I might have mentioned a couple of times before in a show-offy kind of way. Don’t worry too much. I like it when you roll it out and there’s yellow splodges of butter in the pastry. Add your egg yolk and enough water so it’s just coming together. I rolled it straight out then but I think if you put it in the fridge for a while it’s a bit easier to work with. Line your quiche tin or whatever you’re using (there’s actually enough pastry for two, or for you to put a lid on if you really want to) with the pastry, push it into the corners and cut round the edges with a blunt knife. Then stick that in the fridge while you grill your sausages. Trip over large skinny dog, slithering around your feet looking for stray sausages, then arrange your sausages in a jaunty, star shape in the pastry case (reserving one or two for salivating greyhound at your feet). Whisk up the eggs with a large splosh of milk, mix in the grated cheese, then pour it over the sausages. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees (you know I don’t do gas marks) for about 15 – 20 mins. Remember the sausages are cooked so you’re only setting the eggy mixture. And hey presto! I think this is a really good recipe once you’ve mastered the pastry. My brother’s wife, L, just one of my two particularly wondrous and lovely sisters in law, does a yummy version with cooked prawns and salmon, and adds tomato puree to the eggy mixture so it’s a fetching pink colour. Very nice. I thought afterwards that I should have fried some onions with the sausages too..yummy.

Have noticed recently that I’m getting a bit lardy. Me and the pocket rocket are going to have to start taking longer walks. Either that, or I’m going to have to stop with the experimental cookie making…