I’ve been thinking about pie a lot recently.Partly the cold weather is to blame for whilst I will eat pie at any time of year as soon as the leaves start to turn and fall pie seems to become the answer to so many questions.
Need something to warm you through? Pie. Need a good idea for supper? Pie. Want to put a smile on someone’s face? Pie. Filling up before a cold two hours watching Arsenal? Pie. You see I’m trying to think of a question that doesn’t have pie as it’s answer and I can’t.
But more than all the reasons above, I’m thinking pie today as I’ve just reread a review of a pub in Oxford written by Jay Rayner, one of the restaurant reviews I love the most, and he waxes lyrical about the very life enhancing qualities of good pie. Following that with my first ever trip to the legend that is Piebury Corner for a pre match “Tony Adams” and then Thanksgiving and I think you will have to agree, pies are among us, there is no escape.
My pie is a beef pie, a cow pie of great meatiness and a perfect pie with which to welcome to Islington a new resident at the butcher’s shop on the corner of St John’s Street and Myddleton Square. When I first moved to Islington a previous incumbent ran this place but sadly it closed. The shop itself is listed so as Turner and George are the very essence of new wave butchers the building is perfect for them: each tile has remained in place, the money is collected in a booth at the rear and the butchers block could have been in situ since “Late Bland” was still with us. Turner and George have wonderful meat, well sourced, well hung and well prepared. I’m thrilled to have them so close and am hoping we will have a long and happy relationship.
I use feather blade for my meat cutting the pieces about 3-4cm in size , but shin would work too. The recipe is in two parts first the meat is cooked to melting tenderness in loads of butter then it’s topped with butter rich puff pastry. The stuff of dreams and smiles and many contented sighs.
For Thanksgiving I made a pumpkin pie, not hugely popular in my house but I love it and I do the cooking. This year I combined my two tins of pumpkin with a tin of condensed milk, two tablespoons of maple syrup and 3 eggs plus a hearty dose of freshly ground spices:nutmeg, cinnamon and mace.
I didn’t add extra sugar, the condensed milk being sweet enough. I also don’t pre bake my pie case just cook the filled shortcrust pile in a hot oven 200C for 15 mins then at 160 C until the filling is set. If the top cracks, as well it might, pile on whipped cream flavoured with orange liqueur.
First stew your meat:
1.5 kg trimmed weight feather steak or shin cut into 3-4cm cubes
3 large white onions sliced fine
salt and pepper
Mix everything together and put into a casserole with a tight fitting lid. Place this in a preheated oven 150C 300F cooking for 2 1/2 hours
Allow to cool .
make the gravy:
I tin beef consommé or Fond de Rotis and water or red wine
Lift the meat into a pie dish and return the casserole to the stove. You need to make some gravy now using the juices. I use a French gravy base called Fond de Rotis but a can of beef consommé works a treat too. I like to add the fond plus water and or wine or the consommé to the casserole dish and simmering till I have about 250ml of tasty sauce which I then pour over the meat.
500 gms ready made all butter puff pastry
beaten egg to glaze
Roll the pastry out till the lid is a little larger than your dish. Butter the rim of the dish and using a thin piece cut from the pastry make a ribbon boarder. Brush this lightly with egg then put on the pastry cutting a vent in the centre. You can be very tidy or “rustic” in your approach to this both work well , make sure the edges are well sealed. Glaze the pastry with beaten egg then pop the pie into the fridge for an hour or over night.
Bake the pie in a hot oven 200C 400F gas mk 6 for 30-40 minutes or until the pastry is arch golden brown.
Serve with mashed potatoes and swede or carrot and some bright, crisp cabbage.