Nice as pie
Fabulous fillings to keep you satisfied
OOH, I love a bit of pie. A flaky Greek spanakopita brimming with salty feta and tannic spinach. Steak and ale pudding – its pillowy suet exterior collapsing into gravy and fork-tender meat. And lemon meringue pie, billowing cloud-like at the table.
It’s not the healthiest of foodstuffs, but there’s nothing better for a lazy weekend supper than a pastry-laden dish of goodness. The easiest by far is made with shortcrust pastry, which I’ve used as a base for most of these pies. Enjoy!
SLOW- BRAISED CHICKEN, TARRAGON AND LENTIL PIE Ser ves 4 - 6
This is a luxurious-tasting, deep-filled pie that requires a bit of time and work – but is so worth it. The chicken cooks down to a velvety consistency, the tarragon brings a hint of aniseed, and lentils add bite. Serve with a big pile of steam seasonal veg and a glass of chilled white.
For the filling:
4 chicken legs with thighs attached (skin on) 200ml chicken stock
200ml white wine
1tsp dried or 1.5tbsps fresh chopped tarragon 100ml double cream
1 tin green lentils, drained 2tsps cornflour mixed with 3tsps water Seasoning Pastry: 150g cold, unsalted butter, cubed 300g plain flour Pinch salt Cold water 1 egg beaten to brush
Place the chicken, stock, wine and tarragon in a slow cooker and cook on high for four hours or overnight on low. Cool, remove the skin and bones and shred the meat. Strain the juices into a bowl and skim off any fat.
Mix the water and cornflour to a paste and mix into the shredded chicken.
Place the chicken, chicken juices and cream in a pan and cook on a medium heat until thickened and reduced. Season, stir in the lentils, and place in a bowl to cool completely.
For the pastry rub the flour, salt and butter together in a bowl to make breadcrumbs. Add cold water, drop by drop and bring together into a dough. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Set the oven to 190°C. Flour a surface and roll out a third of the dough to about 3mm thick and large enough to line a 20cm round, deep pie dish with overhang. Cut away the excess. Line your dish, brush with a little egg and fill with the chicken mixture.
Now get creative. Roll out the rest of the pastry and create a lattice design, or lay a simple layer of plain pastry over the top (sealing the edges). Do whatever design takes your fancy- maybe get the cookie cutters out!
Brush over egg to glaze and place in the oven for 45 minutes to one hour until golden.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
The pie will freeze nicely in its dish before
CAULIFLOWER CHEESE AND BLACK PEPPER MAPLE BACON PIE Se r ve s 6 h ear t i ly
This is a naughty but nice, warming dish of yum. The creamy cheesy sauce hides surprise nuggets of bacon, cooked until sticky in maple syrup and hot black pepper. All you need on the side is a nice bright salad.
1 large head cauliflower,
green parts removed,
chopped into 1.5cm pieces
200g smoked streaky bacon
3tbsps dark maple syrup
1tsp crushed black peppercorns
20g unsalted butter
2tbsps plain flour
400ml milk mixed with
200ml double cream
150g strong cheddar,
grated 2tsps mustard powder Pinch cayenne Seasoning For the cheese and garlic pastry: 175g unsalted butter, cubed 350g plain flour 100g strong cheese, grated 2tsps garlic powder Cold water 1 egg to glaze
Make the pastry. Rub together the flour, butter and garlic powder until you have breadcrumbs. Add the cheese then drip in cold water, a little at a time, pressing the mixture to bring it together into a dough. Wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
For the bacon, place the rashers on a lined baking tray and pop under the grill, cooking on both sides until the fat is crispy. Remove, drizzle over the maple syrup and black peppercorns. Toss and pop back under the grill for a minute or so until sticky. Allow to cool then chop with scissors into 1cm strips.
Place the cauliflower pieces in a steamer for three minutes and set aside.
Place the butter and flour in a large pan. Cook over a medium heat, stirring to make a nutty coloured paste. Add the milk/cream mixture bit by bit, whisking all the time to keep lumps out.
Once all the liquid is added pop in the mustard powder and cayenne. Cook, whisking constantly, until it’s like a loose custard. Fold in the cheese and cauliflower and taste for seasoning. Stir in the prepared bacon and pour into a 20cm by 30cm dish. Allow to cool completely.
Once the filling has cooled, roll out the pastry to 3mm thick and top the pie anyway you like.
Bake at 200°C for 35 minutes.
SAUSAGE HOPPERS Serves 9 heartily
If you need a quick fix have a go at these little parcels, filled with slow-cooked herby beer onions and good quality sausagemeat. You don’t even need to make your own pastry – shop-bought is fine.
1 pack ready rolled puff pastry
450g pork sausages
Oil for frying
3 large onions halved and thinly sliced
4tsps brown sugar
1 bottle light local ale (I used Woodforde’s Bure Gold)
1tbps low salt soy sauce
1tsp fresh thyme
1 egg, beaten, to glaze
Heat 1tbsp oil in a frying pan. Add the onions and sugar and cook over a medium to high heat until brown and sticky. Add the thyme, soy sauce and beer and cook on a medium heat until the mixture has reduced to a thick chutney-like consistency. Add a little ground black pepper to taste. Set aside in a bowl to cool.
Remove the sausages from their skins and mush together in a bowl.
Place the pastry on a floured surface, roll out a tad to stretch it a bit then cut into nine equal pieces.
Pop a tablespoon of cooled onions on top of each piece of pastry then 1.5tbsp of sausagemeat. Bring the pastry up along the length of the filling and press together to seal. Press the short ends down to seal and chop off the extra pastry. Tuck the edges under and turn the pastry over – they’ll be an oval shape.
Slash with a knife on top, place on a lined tray, glaze with egg and bake at 200°C for 20 minutes.
CHEAT’S BANOFFEE TARTE TATIN WITH SALTED RUM CARAMEL Serves 4 heartily
Tarte tatin is a classic, but to make the dessert properly you need a pan you can pop into the oven – and these can be both expensive and hard to find. So try my cheat’s method. It tastes just as good and will save you money on a pan you’ll probably only use a handful of times!
For the chocolate pastry:
50g unsalted butter, cubed
75g plain flour
25g dark cocoa powder
2tbsps caster sugar Cold water
For the topping:
2 small bananas, sliced thinly into rounds
20g unsalted butter
5tbsps caster sugar Squeeze lemon Pinch of salt
For the sauce:
100g caster sugar
250ml double cream
Create your ‘pans’ first. You’ll need greaseproof paper, tin foil and a 12cm round pastry cutter.
Draw four circles on the greaseproof paper with the cutter and cut out. Cut out four squares of foil just larger than the greaseproof.
Pop the paper on top of the foil and scrunch the edges of the foil up around the paper circle to make an ‘edge’.
Now make the pastry. Pop the butter, cocoa, sugar and flour in a bowl and rub into breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water to bind together into a dough, wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
For the bananas, place the butter, salt and sugar in a frying pan on a low heat to melt the sugar, then turn up the heat until it turns golden. Add the bananas and carefully toss them to coat. Using a couple of small spoons place the bananas, in a single layer, in your prepared circles, and spoon over some of the cooking syrup. Set aside.
Make the sauce.
Place the sugar and water in a pan and cook on low until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and cook until it turns amber in colour. Add the salt and carefully pour in the cream. Simmer on low, whisking, until thick, then add the rum and set aside.
Flour a surface and roll out your chilled pastry to 3mm thick. Cut into 12cm circles and press over the top of the prepared bananas.
Place in the oven at 210°C for 10 minutes. Once cooked, leave for a couple of minutes, and turn out onto serving plates. The paper and foil will peel straight off. Serve with a drizzle of sauce and some cream.