You probably know this pastry from pork pies or those gala pies with an egg in the middle: served cold straight from the fridge or lukewarm in a picnic. Can I strongly commend this pastry when it is still fresh and succulent from the oven?
Straightforward to make and like Play Dough to handle, you can use nearly any ovenproof container to give your pie individuality and style. Mine uses one of those unbelievably expensive classic pointed oval tins – only thanks to a joint Christmas present from lavishly generous friends.
First, place 185g lard in 200g water in a pan and heat just enough to dissolve the fat.
While it cools, mix 100g strong bread flour with 400g plain flour plus a flat teaspoonful each of salt and ground mace. Rub in 100g butter.
Pour in the lard and water and mix with your hands. It takes about a minute or so. Now you have an oozing, warm concentration of calories ready to be moulded into your tin, silicone or other vessel of choice. Put aside a handful for the lid and take another and press on to the base, making it as thin as possible, adding more to press up the sides – it joins and welds together with no problem. It will become firmer as it cools which is helpful if the sides tend to sag a bit.
Now you are ready for the filling of your choice: slices of ham, turkey, chicken, pheasant, partridge, venison or whatever takes your fancy. Some minced pork or sausage-meat is worth including as the fat keeps your other fillings moist – and some boiled eggs too if you like. Quantities are difficult to give as it depends on the size of your container – but left-overs of both pastry and filling can make extra mini pies.
I used turkey moistened with lemon juice, pork mince with lots of ground pepper and thyme plus Spanish dried ham – all in the classic layers. The pastry reserved for the lid can simply be patted out to shape and the right thickness on your hand or rolled out if you want the extra washing up. Pop it on top of the pie and make good joins all around the edge before making at least one hole to let out steam.
If you want to eat cold, you might add some jellified stock: soak 2 leaves of gelatine in cold water before squeezing out the liquid. Add a stock cube or similar to half a pint of hot water and dissolve; add the gelatine and stir until dissolved, heating on medium heat in the microwave if needed. Use a funnel to pour into the steam hole in the pastry lid – it may take several hours to add a little and have it absorbed before adding some more.
Mini individual pies only need about 10 minutes at Gas 6 before the slower cooking at Gas 2 – and are difficult to resist: hot out of the oven!