Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Perfect Pork Pie - Part One

First of all, you might want to skip reading this if you're a vegetarian or in any way pork-averse.

Who's left? Probably only The Fat Expats.

I discovered yesterday (via bloody Twitter, of all things) that we are now into British Pie Week. Actually, BPW is a thing invented by Jus-Rol (makers of frozen pastry for lazy people) to increase sales. On Twitter, you can follow #britishpieweek.

Now, it's a well-known fact in some circles that I am a big fan of pies of all sorts (article here, about halfway down the page, and I also get a mention here), and also a bit of a purist as to what constitutes a pie.  Pie-filling placed in a ceramic dish and baked with an oval of Jus-Rol flaky pastry on top cannot be considered a pie (despite the fact that Jus-Rol's winning 'pie' for BPW was exactly that). A pizza is not a pie, and nor is a pastie, or a quiche, tart, flan or crumble. A pie is this: pastry top and bottom, tasty savoury or sweet stuff inside, sealed at the edges and baked.

By pure coincidence, I had a few chums round for lunch a few days ago, and for the main course I made a rather splendid steak and mushroom pie (it would have been steak and kidney, but one of the guests refuses to eat offal). And MamaDuck, who is currently in Bristol, reported they'd had lunch at a pie shop that goes by the wondrous name of The Pie Minister (there are some things you just wish you'd thought of). So, I've been thinking about pies. Unfortunately they're way too fiddly for me to make just for myself. But I thought I could make a bunch of little pies, and they'd be good for lunch. A couple of years ago I had a phase of making pork pies. They weren't the greatest things, but lots of people loved them. So, inspired by this video, I'm making pork pies right now.

You need three things to make a proper Melton Mowbray-style pork pie: hot water pastry, the pork filling, and the delicious jelly that fills the space between the meat and the pastry. Previously, I've used gelatine for this, but it doesn't really have any flavour, so this time I'm going to attempt my own. I've got onion, celery, carrot and leek which I'll boil up in water with bay leaves, maybe some garlic and certainly some black peppercorns, a sprig of thyme and a couple of cloves. And the magic ingredient, some pigs' trotters, which are high in gelatine and should make the stock set into a nice wobbly jelly.

And, bugger, I've just noticed I haven't actually got pigs' trotters, I've got sheeps' hands. Well, they'll have to do: if they don't work I can always slap some powdered gelatine in.

For the pastry, you need flour and lard. It came as a surprise to me that here in Spain, the pork capital of the universe, lard (manteca) is actually quite hard to get hold of and is surprisingly expensive. I've taken to making my own. Basically all you do is get some slabs of tocino (pork fat, usually attached to skin), cut it into chunks and throw it in a pan on low heat (3/10 on the electric hob). The fat will melt, eventually, and the remaining skin will go brown. (If you like pork scratchings, the skin is not a lot different).

I have made hot water pastry before, but I've never attempted the raising method shown in the video - in my previous attempts I've used a tin. Obviously, if your pie is not in a tin, the pastry will cook more evenly, although it could well turn out to be a funny shape.

I'm gonna post this now: I think the stock needs another hour or two. Meanwhile I'll prep the meat and the pastry. Another post later, with pictures...

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