Sometimes all you fancy is pie: crispy pastry with flaky layers encasing an unctuous filling. Warm and lovely and filling and satisfying. Autumn is definitely setting in now with the nights drawing in a little earlier and the air turning chilly, so what better way to warm up and make the most of an evening than with pie (and a little glass of vino) with good company?
That’s definitely one of the best things about pies, actually. They’re usually a pretty communal food. I mean, I wouldn’t doubt myself in consuming the entirety of this pie in a couple of sittings, but it’s lovely to cut into the crispy pie and serve it up, watching the steam rise out of the dish and the filling just tumble on to the plate and then passing it round to everyone to serve up the extras. There’s something really heart-warming in seeing friends tuck in and having that split second of silence whilst they enjoy the first morsels fresh from the oven.
I had a lovely time making this and I really hope you will too. I would definitely recommend making this when you’ve a day off – this isn’t really something for late night baking! I am very aware that not everyone (myself included) has the luxury of time all the time, so I would never condone using shop bought pastry if you want to make this as a midweek meal. The filling does freeze well and is even better once it’s been left to thicken up.
You might be wondering what the whole ‘tiny pot of mustard’ thing is about. Well, my friend Matt and I went to London to see a show and on returning to the hotel decided that we would order room service having never done it before and we wanted to see what all the fuss was about. As we awaited eagerly (and rather sleepily) in anticipation of silver cloches, linen napkins, a singular flower in a vase on a tray and waiters in tails it didn’t even cross our minds to think of condiments. But when our food arrived what we were most impressed with was the teeny tiny little pot of mustard (sad life, isn’t it?) so that is really what inspired this bake. Chunks of pork in a cider, mustard and crème fraiche sauce reduced down in the oven, surrounded by (hopefully) lovely butter laminated layers of puff pastry. This is what I mean by baking happy memories; it can be the littlest thing, but it reminds you of a fantastic time and sharing the bakes can only lead to more!
Right, let’s get a rockin’ and rollin (get it, rollin’…rolling because it’s pastry?! ….let’s stick to baking, eh?!)
For your filling:
1kg pork shoulder steaks chopped into hearty chunks
200g bacon lardons (you can use streaky bacon cut into pieces, but lardons make a bit more of an impact)
14 shallots left whole (if you use banana shallots just 7 is fine, cut into quarters)
1 small onion, finely diced
2 celery sticks, chopped
300ml dry sparkling cider
300ml good quality chicken stock
4½tbsp crème fraiche (plus extra for additional thickening/creaminess)
2tbsp cornflour mixed with 2tbsp water
Teeny tiny little jar of coarse grain mustard (or 2tbsp will do!)
2tbsp finely chopped tarragon
For the pastry
300g plain flour
1pint ice cold water (just plonk an ice cube or two in the glass and fill it up from there)
1 egg to glaze
Preferably the filling should be made a couple of hours ahead, or the day before, so it has time to thicken and go cold before putting it into the pie.
For the filling low and slow is the way to go! Heat your oven to 170/150fan/gas mark 3.
Heat a little oil in your casserole dish (if it’s hob and oven proof, otherwise heat the oil in a non-stick pan) and brown half the pork – frying for about 10minutes until the edges start to change colour. Remove the pork and then repeat with the other half. Doing it like this will make sure that the pork is evenly cooked on the outside, and the juices are sealed in before it is set to stew.
In another pan, fry off your lardons until crispy and set aside.
Then sauté your shallots, celery and onions for a few minutes so that they soften and start to turn translucent.
In the casserole dish tip in all of the ingredients and give them a good stir with a wooden spoon so that everything is combined nicely.
Drench the ingredients in the chicken stock and cider. Add in two full sprigs of tarragon at this stage too.
Cover with a lid and cook for 2hrs until the pork is lovely and tender and the vegetables are all caramalised and soft and delicious.
To thicken add the crème fraiche and cornflour mix along with your tiny pot (or tablespoons of mustard). Chop your tarragon and pop that in too. Let the whole thing simmer on the hob for a short while, stirring regularly. The best way to tell that a sauce is thickening is to feel the consistency change as you stir. If your pot is not hob proof, just return the casserole to the oven for 5minutes at a time and stir in between.
Take the casserole out of the oven and leave to cool.
Pies need pastry! So, see last week’s post for the recipe! I am aware that whipping up a batch of puff pastry on a school night might not be your priority, so by all means crack out the shop bought! If you are doing this, pleeeeeaaaaaase let it come to room temperature for 10minutes before using: it will be so much easier to use!
When you’ve made your pastry, or it is ready to use, blind bake it for 20-25mins (or according to pack instructions). Roll it out into a large disc/oblong and line the inside of your pie dish, pressing the edges down using an excess piece of pastry to prevent breakages. Cut off any excess and then prick the inside of the case (and up the sides) with a fork to make lots of little steam holes. Line the dish with greaseproof and dump your baking beans/rice etc. before popping it in the oven for 25-30mins.
When it's started to go golden and that raw look is no more, remove the case from the oven, take out the beans etc. and load up with filling. Remember to fill it right to the top and push it to the edges – we don’t want any gappage!
Roll out your pastry lid and place it on top, trimming off any excess to create a neat edge. If you’re feeling extra fancy, you can even make little leaves out of the leftovers. Glaze with egg wash (I don’t care what people say, it definitely gives the best colour) and then bake for anywhere between 40mins – 1hr at 180/170fan/gas mark 4.
Enjoy with friends, roasties, veg and a cheeky glass of vino!