Category Archives: Pies

Pasties

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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…

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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!

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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!

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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)
  1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas mark 7.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

Rob x

Savoury pies

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Lately I have been feeling somewhat homesick, especially when my auntie sends me photos of what she’s cooking! Just kidding – keep those pics coming Zi! Now this doesn’t happen to me very often, but when it happens it happens. That’s life. Cooking traditional Maltese food helps me to invoke a feeling of cosiness and reminds me of home, especially during the winter months. I feel so happy in the kitchen, even when I’m tired and can’t be bothered to cook a feast. But as a concept Maltese food is not that complicated, so for today I’ve decided to share with you something which we like to cook on our little island: my version of Ricotta Pie. What’s great about this pie is that you can eat it warm in winter and cold in summer. I love it! For my Maltese readers this will be nothing new, but I hope you will still like it and appreciate this lady’s wish to write about home once in a while!

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So for basic shortcrust pastry I always use the following. I use ounces for this as the measurements in grams can be a bit tricky. The basic rule of thumb for shortcrust is that the amount of flour should be twice as much (by weight) as the amount of fat.

  • 8oz plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon of salt (optional)
  • 4 oz margerine or butter, cold from the fridge
  • around 6 to 8 teaspoons cold water

Mix the flour, baking powder and butter in a bowl, using your thumbs and second and third fingers. Make sure that the butter is cold. Be patient here; the butter should be rubbed into the flour in about 5 to 10 minutes, until it seems like breadcrumbs. Do not use your palms because you will make the mixture warm up. Remember that for this, the colder everything is the better. Add the water gradually as needed, but don’t overwork the pastry. Wrap the finished product in cling film and set aside in the fridge until you need it. I like to keep it there for at least an hour, but I would say 30 minutes is enough.

For the ricotta filling you need:

  • 500g Ricotta
  • 300g frozen peas
  • 1 large egg, beaten slightly
  • some pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 onion, cooked lightly in olive oil or butter and cooled.

You won’t believe how easy this mixture is to make: just mix the ingredients in a bowl till all is combined. Don’t forget to preheat the oven to 180°C/356°F/Gas Mark 4.

To assemble the pie: divide the pastry into two and roll it out on a clean and floured surface, a few inches larger in size than your pie dish. With the help of your rolling pin, lift the pastry and place it on the bottom of the dish. Fill the pastry with the ricotta mixture, then roll out the second piece of pastry and place this on the top. Secure the edges with your fingers. If you have extra pastry, make something pretty like a star or a flour or a simple knot to put on the top layer. Prong with a fork, brush the top with some milk or a beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with some sesame seeds. Place in a preheated oven for around an hour, till it turns golden and beautiful. It’s the smell of home. Enjoy alone or serve it with a plain green salad and a glass of your favourite white.

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For another idea you can also make Timpana. The pastry is the same, but with a Bolognese type filling, made with penne, minced beef, peas and tomato passata. There’s no recipe here, at least for the time being, but I’ve put up a photo to give you an idea. In my view you don’t have to follow a recipe to the letter; it’s only here as a guide. I love this recipe and I hope you will to.

Enjoy!

Rob x