Pie shops, the best and the worst, people have their favourites and we don’t all agree. My most memorable pie shop as a girl was Bill Hope’s. Bill was a butcher who made meat and potato pies with a peak ‘titty pies’ we called them as kids. They were delicious and big and eating it was a case of deconstruction for me: pastry top first, filling next then the softer pastry bottom last. Another pie shop in the town was Tyson’s. Tyson’s was a popular place for lunch with the secondary school pupils, mainly the lads who would to go out of school at lunch time to get a carry out Tyson’s Pie in a bag. But Tyson also happened to be my adoptive name and subsequently some of the lads called me ‘Pie Face’ even though I was a skinny girl at school and they would never have seen me eating a pie in the street. I wasn’t allowed to eat in the street, it was banned by my mother and she had a horrible habit of finding out whenever I broke the rules.
My favourite pies these days are from a butchers in Broughton in Furness, Melville Tyson’s ( Tyson again it’s common round here!) I love their meat and potato pies as do Keith and my sons. Now and again if we go to the auction up there I will have a chicken and mushroom pie too because that is one of my all time favourite pies. Unfortunately none of my family at home would eat it so I don’t make it.
My meat and potato pie is really good, to me it isn’t just pie and to coin a phrase it is made with love.
Cumbrian comfort pie for definite! It is beef mince based with onion, potato and carrot added. I could be the Oxo mum, not to rob the wonderful, late, Linda Bellingham of her title but I use it in all my red meat dishes including my pie.
I never experiment with the filling it’s how I like it and it’s how I want it but I do sometimes have a bit of a change with the pastry, making it with half whole grain flour, adding cheese or using spelt flour. I make my pastry with butter usually but Trex is good and also you could use the traditional half marg half lard recipe if you like.
So I will refer to the fat as fat, I would use butter generally but you can use whatever you prefer. It will still taste good (I promise).
For the filling
500g of raw minced beef, 1 red onion, 2 large carrots, 4-5 potatoes, salt and pepper, 4 beef stock cubes ( I use oxo ) & olive oil
Begin by preparing all your ingredients, peeling and chopping the onions finely. Peel, slice, then chop the carrots into cubes. Finally do the same with the potatoes but place in water to soak off the starch.
Fry the onion in a little olive oil until it is browned then add the mince and do the same. Next put the carrots in and the drained potatoes. Give it a really good stir to evenly distribute the ingredients. Add salt and pepper and 4 oxo cubes then enough liquid so that all ingredients is able to simmer gently in it. Too much liquid will dilute the flavour too little will cause it to stick to the bottom of the pan. Place a lid on the pan and leave to cook until the carrots and potatoes are cooked but not too soft. If you cook it too long they will fall away and if you cook them too short the vegetables won’t be soft enough for the texture of the pie to be right. I would recommend testing after 30 mins.
Once the filling is cooked I drain all the gravy off into a pan and set that aside to put on top of the pie when it is served. Allow the filling to cool so as not to make the pastry soggy by melting the fat in it when the pie is assembled.
For the pastry
16oz plain flour, 8oz fat, salt, cold water to bind
* A little trick I have learned is if you substitute 4oz of plain for 4oz of self raising you will get a much lighter pastry but it isn’t necessary.
As I said previously you could use half wholegrain half white or half spelt flour and half white.
I make my pastry in a similar way to how I make my shortbread dough.
Mix the butter and flour in a mixer with the salt until it turns into crumbs. Add cold water a little at a time and continue mixing until it all binds together. If you don’t have a mixer you can use your hands to rub in the fat and then use a knife to mix and cut the pastry until it makes a dough.
I don’t usually chill the pastry but I allow it rest a little together so it is easier to roll out.
Divide the pastry into two halves, making one piece slightly larger than the other.
Roll out one piece and line the bottom of your pie dish I have several dishes I use.
I use the throw away 24cm square foil trays at lambing time they are 3 for a £1 from Wilko and are an excellent size too and transportable if you are making the pie to take somewhere.
Once you have lined the dish with pastry add all the cooled filling to the dish.
Roll out the second piece of pastry and any large pieces overhanging you have trimmed off.
Brush around the edge of the pastry in the dish with egg or milk and place the top layer of pastry on.
Seal down making sure both pieces meet and trim off any excess pastry. Sometimes if I have no time to be fiddly I just fold all the pastry in and make a rolled edge on the pie it never gets left the extra crust.
But if it’s for presentation I would just press a folk or knife handle along the edge to finish.
Then your pie is ready to cook. Remember you have already cooked the filling so you are wanting to make sure your pastry is cooked around the filling. I put the pie in on a hot oven to begin to make sure it gets a good blast of heat cook at 200 degrees C for 10 mins then reduce the heat to 180 and continue to cook until the pastry is cooked on top and you can hear the pie sizzling inside I would say that’s another 30 mins.
To serve we always have peas and some sort of pickle: beetroot, cabbage, onions … and the hot gravy drained from the filling ladled over the top of the pie.
I hope you have success in making the pie for yourselves. If you have any questions regarding the recipe or during cooking, please feel free to ask or comment.
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Happy pie making.