Autumn larder – Pies
Pie – (noun) ‘A baked dish of fruit, or meat and vegetables, typically with a top and base of pastry’.
There has been a large amount of debate around pies recently that I for one, have no desire to re-open. However it would seem that the Oxford dictionary does do somewhat of a disservice to shepherds, cottages, and fishermen alike. Therefore I have stretched the remit of pies to include potato topped offerings, steamed puddings, and the ‘casserole with pastry lids’ that we in Scotland know as, well, pies. And while soggy bottoms may be universally unwelcome, when it comes to pies the clamour for the soggy top is almost ubiquitous. The treat of sinking knife through layer upon golden layer of crust to reach the point where the rich gravy has met pastry in a marriage of unctuous goodness is the highlight of any steak pie.
Steak pie for me is simply beef stewed in stock, with onions if you wish, then baked in an ashet topped with puff pastry. You can add your own take on this from a myriad list of alternatives, adding ale, mushrooms, potatoes, or stewed sausage. The only constant is that it is always served with mashed potatoes, and preferably steeped marrowfat peas. Just be prepared for a battle over the soggy pastry. Sticking with beef, but this time with a shortcrust top and bottom is a ‘mince round’, basically mince and tatties but with the mince encased in pastry, you can make your own pastry for both of these, but I tend not to.
However when it comes to a steamed pudding making your own pastry is essential, as the addition of suet means it doesn’t keep, so the sooner you get it cooking the better. Made with raw meat this takes a bit more time and patience. I’ve used game here, venison and pheasant, and supplemented with lardo from my friend Rachel Hammond who makes wonderful charcuterie in the Borders, selling at Edinburgh Farmers Market among other place, however you could also use pancetta as a substitute.
I’ve also included a pasty and a bridie on the list, two of my very favorite ‘snack’ foods. For my pasty I’ve used mutton with potatoes, and encased in shortcrust pastry. This may not be to everybody’s liking but I would find it impossible to cook mutton in the same time as the vegetables and pastry. A bridie is made traditionally using raw meat and I’ve stuck to that here, using rough puff pastry.
I would find it impossible to have a list of pies without including fish pie, I tend to go for a mixture of smoked and unsmoked fish, perhaps with the addition of scallops or prawns if I was feeling luxurious, it’s a fairly quick and wholesome midweek meal for the whole family. I like to stick to the tradition of boiled eggs as well and supplement with capers and dill to add a little colour and vibrancy to the dish.
Fourth article in Scottish Daily Mail Autumn Larder series