#1 – 48 Recipe Challenge – Recipe 8: Pork Pies
The choice for this month’s recipe was dictated by the local pub’s pie competition. It’s an annual event but I have never entered before so this year was something new for me. The key rule is that it has to be a ‘proper’ pie (e.g. fully enclosed in pastry). Inspired by the amazing picnic pies created on the Great British Bake Off, I thought I’d have a go at a hot water crust and chose to make individual pork pies. This was not only a completely new recipe for me but also a new ingredient as I’ve never cooked with lard before.
As I’ve never made hot water pastry before and as I was also unsure how successful I would be at ‘hand raising’ the pies, I thought I’d have a practice run because I wanted to ensure I had a presentable entry for the competition. Good job I did! My first attempt, using a Delia Smith recipe, resulted in disaster. Firstly, the quantity of liquid was nowhere near enough for the quantity of flour so I had to think on my feet and add quite a lot of boiling water (the liquid has to be hot when it goes into the dry ingredients – it’s usually melted lard). I’m not sure therefore that the pastry mix was quite right. Then Delia advised cooking the pies in a muffin tin, but removing them from the tin halfway through cooking to allow the base and sides to crisp up. When I tried this, it was apparent that there was no way those pies were coming out of that tin and attempts to remove them merely resulted in collapse. I ended up with semi-deconstructed pies that looked a bit like a road accident! Sadly, they also failed the taste test – they were incredibly bland and the inside of the pastry wasn’t cooked.
So, it was back to the drawing board (or rather the internet). I found a Paul Hollywood recipe which looked like it might work. Instead of hand raising the pies in the muffin tin it instructed me to roll the pastry out and cut discs of pastry to line the tin. That way I could control the thickness of the pastry and hopefully ensure it cooked though. With some additional advice from ‘cooking friends’ about how much seasoning these pies require (far more than you’d ever think possible), I was ready to try again, this time hopefully to produce pies fit for a competition. I adapted the recipe slightly, trying to combat the blandness of my previous effort by adding a teaspoon of mustard powder to the flour mix for the pastry, and also a tablespoon of Marmite to the filling.
This was the result:
I’m happy to say that these did come out of their tin intact, were more flavoursome than their predecessor and happily took their place among the 28 Pie Competition entries without embarrassing me. Entries encompassed sweet, savoury, cold and hot pies. There certainly was an impressive array of pies in all shapes, styles and flavours – as you can see!
I had a very enjoyable afternoon at the pub, sampling the real ale and the pies (Chicken and Chorizo, followed by Apple & Pecan for dessert) and enjoying the company so much that it didn’t matter that my pies weren’t placed. The winner was another hot water crust pie though – filled with Hare, Ham and Blackberry Jam. I was lucky enough to sample some and it was tasty, although possibly a little on the sweet side. The afternoon raised over £400 for charity, so all that eating and drinking was for a good cause. The competition has made a bit of a name for itself locally – we even made the local paper:
I hope to enter again next year so maybe another one of my 48 recipes will be a pie!
As for my pies, the pastry was cooked through and they did have more flavour than the first batch, but they were still disappointingly dry. The pastry didn’t quite have the lovely crunch of commercial pies. As a result I’ve scored this recipe as follows:
Healthiness – 2/10 (bacon, lard, butter…)
Ease of preparation – 8/10 (not difficult as long as you don’t try to remove the pie from the tin whilst it’s still hot!)
Flavour/taste – 4/10 (sadly disappointing)
My overall verdict is that this is one food where it takes a lot of effort and skill to make something which comes anywhere near the texture and flavour of commercially produced pies, so I’m probably better off just buying them in future!
The Delia recipe has gone in the bin; a sad day, the first time Delia has ever let me down. The Paul Hollywood recipe has made it back into my recipes folder, just in case I have the urge to make them again some day. If you fancy trying it, here’s the link: http://paulhollywood.com/recipes/pork-pies/