I love to read old recipe books. In fact, the older they are the more I enjoy them. I don’t know what makes them so appealing, but it’s just how it is. My mum didn’t have lots of recipe books, and she didn’t inherit any from her mum either. She does have one though, in her head, but you have to be a Vulcan and go through a mind-meld to get hold of that! (My mum is always amused when I ask for advice on a recipe; before I got married I didn’t have any idea how to cook or bake. Could she have thought that I would never learn?! mm…) She’s this type of cook: when you ask her for a recipe she says: “oh so, do you have a pen & paper?…yes?…OK…you need…a bit of mixed spice, a bit of curry, some onions…” and on and on. Sounds familiar? And I fume! But hey, since I love her very much, I just say “awww thanks ma – you’re so sweet”, and I then try to get as close as possible to the recipe later on in the kitchen. The same goes for J’s lovely granny. “That’s delicious Na. What did you use?” “A little bit of this & a little bit of that”…etcetera, etcetera, etcetera! I also think though, that there’s something really endearing about that. But I digress…
My first memory of the following recipe is my mother’s kitchen. I was very little and she baked her socks off every time she threw me some sort of party. She catered for every one, and to this day I don’t know how she did it. What I clearly remember are the kitchen and dining tables full of pigs in blankets (or sausage rolls to you and me) and all sorts of little savoury pies, all filed up on baking trays, ready for the oven, like rows and rows of toy soldiers ready for battle!
Now what I prefer to bake are the bigger versions, because I’m older I guess! Unfortunately I don’t like the fiddly and never-ending process of assembling small portions of the same thing. Though I have to admit that managing smaller quantities of shortcrust is easier than rolling out a whole pie lid. So this is what I do: I call in the troupes…well my husband…to give us a hand. J tells me that these are good for the weekend; he finds it therapeutic. I really can’t get this, one: because of all the sticky cleaning up afterwards, and two: because flour has a tendency to get under a kitchen’s skin, like icing sugar. (No, I don’t have a dishwasher in case you’re asking.) But a messy kitchen is a happy kitchen so it’s OK!
In case you have no note of my shortcrust pastry recipe, you can find it here. With 16 oz of pastry you will roughly get 8 decent sized pies. As a cutter I use my soup bowls which measure 17.5cm across. If you have a cookie cutter that big then by all means use it. There will be less risk of breakage. For the filling I used the following:
- 600g minced beef or beef cut into small chunks
- 6 small potatoes, cut into smallish dice
- 3 onions, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon mixed spice
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon curry powder
- around 2 tablespoons or so of milk for brushing the tops (or a beaten egg)
- Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas mark 7.
- Place the minced beef, potatoes and onions in a bowl. If you have a mortar and pestle use that to grind the salt, peppercorns, fenugreek and thyme. Use ground salt and pepper if you prefer. Add these to the beef mixture, together with the ground spices. If you’re not squeemish mix everything by hand. If you are, you could ask someone else to help you!
- Cut 8 rounds of pastry with your cutter. Loosen them from the surface with a spatula and divide the mixture on one side of each pie as equally as you can between them. Place a thin layer of milk or water on the other side of the pastry, fold and press the edges together, sealing everything well. You can fold the edges on themselves too. Brush the pies with milk or a beaten egg.
- Bake at 220ºC (see equivalent above) for the first 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 175ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4 and bake for another 40 minutes or so, till the pies turn golden brown.
These pies are ideal for picnics or to eat on the go. You can also prepare them before you need them and store them uncooked in the fridge. Tell me what you think if you do try them. Apologies for not posting a picture of the cooked pies. I have some on my Facebook page just in case you want to take a quick look. Thanks. Enjoy!