Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Pimp my pie

So it’s the Mothers Birthday today and I wanted to make her a cake. Trouble is she doesn’t like cake and I don’t like making cakes (you can see why we get on so well).  I couldn’t ignore the occasion altogether; it seemed unfair for me to be handing out birthday cakes left right and centre when she would be left with nothing. However I didn’t feel like I could really palm her off with a traditional Birthday cake either, wouldn’t that just be selfish on my part?.....To provide her with something she clearly wouldn’t eat or want just to make myself look like a loving daughter. I won’t lie I did consider it for a while, what can I say I’m a sucker for compliments. Then a light bulb moment….she did like pies, and a giant pork pie is a similar shape to a cake, right? The cogs were turning….

When I was at University my housemates and I became rather fond (read obsessed) with a website called In a nutshell it involved people with far too much free time (students) making giant versions of everyday treats like Jaffa Cakes, Mars Bars etc and sending in pictures of the process and results. We even tried a couple ourselves late one night, I blame the location and opening times of the 24-hour Tesco but really it was just a classic study avoidance exercise. We all knew it.  Understandably we, and half of the campus, were eating bakewell slice for a good week after. Anyway, I digress, basically I was going to pimp the humble pork pie.

With the enthusiasm of Michael Scofield in Prison Break I set about the structural design of said pie/cake. Admittedly it didn’t involve any full body tattooing but I did draw a diagram, on a scrap piece of paper, which I was quite impressed with. Unfortunately I can’t share it with you, I as I seem to have mislaid it…I needed to balance the size and thus impressiveness with how much pork pie one could actually consume, especially as we were going out for a Birthday curry. I mean anyone can politely get through a slice of cake or two after a big meal, but I dense slice of pork pie…I wasn’t too sure there was going to be many takers. It would keep for a while though, so I am sure we would get rid of it eventually. In a moment of doubt I wondered was this a bit weird? But it was too late by then.

I decided on a three-tier creation, each one filled with something different, rather like breakfast, lunch and supper…if you weren’t having a curry first. The bottom was bacon, sausage and hard-boiled eggs, middle was roast chicken, leeks, mushrooms cooked with garlic, thyme & shallots and shredded ham hock and lastly a cheeseboard and chutney filled pie. Ok, I hold my hands up I may have got just a tiny bit carried away this time…I just hope the Mother likes it.

Just in case you want to attempt this pie here’s the recipe, although I would strongly advise sticking to just the one layer. Don’t be alarmed when you read the quantities, seriously this pie is huge. Literally huge!!!

For the pastry:
200g lard, chopped into cubes
200g butter, chopped into cubes
1125g plain flour
3 tsp salt
4 eggs
Bottom pie:
16 sausages, skins removed and meat squeezed out
small bunch chives, chopped
few springs thyme, chopped
2 tsp mustard powder
freshly grated nutmeg
8 hard-boiled eggs
24 rashers lean streaky bacon, I used a mix of smoked and unsmoked
Middle pie:
2 leeks, thinly sliced
270g shredded ham hock (I got this from Waitrose, you can use nice ham shredded though, cheaper to cook your own but time was of the essence)
2 cooked chicken breasts, sliced
small bunch parsley, chopped
knob butter
4 Portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 cloved crushed garlic
thyme leaves
Top pie:
4 different cheeses, grated, look basically you need a lot of cheese, you’ll know when you have enough because the pie will be full
things to layer like sliced pickles, chutney, sundried tomatoes or whatever you like to eat with cheese

1 Make the pastry in a food processor, I did it in two batches. Melt the butter and lard in 425ml of water. Put the flour salt and egg in the bowl of the food processor. Pour in the water and fat with the motor running and mix until you form a dough. This pastry is very easy to work with; in fact it’s the only pastry I have any real time for.
2 Basically you need to divide it into 4 balls. The one for the bottom biggest, then separate into two. About 2/3’s for to line the tin and 1/3 for the top. The fourth ball is to decorate; you only need a small ball for that. Don’t worry too much about size to use for each, you can always add a bit more too the pastry, it’s very forgiving. And will stick together again like hot play dough. Line all 3 tins, roll out circles on greaseproof paper then line your tins (use springform if you can).
3 Bottom pie, mix the sausage meat, herbs nutmeg and mustard with some black pepper. Press into the base of the biggest tin. Make 8 dips for the eggs. Put these in. Top with bacon. Roll out the reserved 1/3 of pastry then press this on top of the filled pie. Press together to seal to the base and then crimp.
4 Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Middle, layer half the leeks, half the ham, half the chicken, and some chopped parsley. Fry the mushrooms in butter with the garlic and thyme until just wilted. Season. Add these then repeat the layers. Top the pie with pastry as above.
5 Top. Layer up the cheese with your chosen fillings. Pace the lid on as above. Roll out the 4th ball of pastry and cut out leaves or whatever you want to decorate with. Stick these on each pie.
6 Cook the two smaller on one oven shelf, bigger on it’s own. For 40 mins, then take out remove the tins, brush with a beaten egg and cook for about 30 mins more. They will be a dark, golden brown. Remove and cool on a wire rack.
7 Once cool, stack on top of each other. Do this just before presenting for your own sanity. I spent hours watching it like a crazy pie voyeur scared it was going to explode. It didn’t but I’ll never get those hours back.  Learn from my mistakes. 

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