A while back, I made four minature savoury pies as an experiment. It worked out very well on the whole. So for a recent dinner party, when we had a vegetarian guest, I made the best two in a larger form as a starter. On that occasion I didn’t take photos. But today I made them again, and this time I did.
These are unquestionably the best pies I have ever made. And … oh, should I say it, should I say it? What the heck, I will: they are the best pies I have ever tasted, too. As my family will eagerly confirm, I am not one to boast about my own cooking; but for these pies, I make an exception.
Here’s the recipe, illustrated.
Start by making up 400 g of shortcrust pastry — I use all butter (I detest margarine), so that’s about 270 g flour and 130 g butter. Once it’s formed and rested, cut it into four equal-sized chunks. The first two will become the pie bases. Roll them out so that they generously cover two seven-inch enamel pie dishes:
[Yes, I should be using metric since I am Doctor Science, so call them 18 cm enamel pie dishes if you prefer. But I learned what a seven-inch diameter was like from singles (ask your parents), so that size is lodged in my memory as seven inches.]
Brush them all over with a beaten egg, and poke holes into the base and sides to prevent bubbling up:
Bake at 200 degrees C until they’re golden brown. I set my timer for ten minutes but found that they looked done after much less time, maybe five minutes, so I took them out. Now trim the edges so that you’re left with a round base that comes up onto the lip of the pie-dish. (In this photo I have trimmed the one on the right, but not yet the one on the left. I ate the trimmings.)
Now for the first layer of fillings. I use a 180 g goat’s-cheese log, and I am so pleased with how I put it into the pie that I am going to show you my procedure. First, cut it into eight equal slices: very easy to do, as you just halve it, halve the halves, then halve the quarters:
Put one slice in the middle, and six more around it in a circle, neatly filling the available area. That leaves you with one slice. Cut it into quarters, and use them to fill in the gaps around the edges. You can see the result in the pie on the left:
For the other pie, I just crumbled in about 150 g of stilton. It’s no good trying to do this cleverly, as stilton simply falls apart on you however you try to slice it. Go with it. Crumble away:
Next: spread a thick layer of pesto on top of the goat’s cheese (left), and place walnuts on top of the stilton (right). I can’t tell you quantities, just add exactly the right amount and you’ll be fine.
Last layer of filling: sun-dried tomatoes go with the goat’s cheese and pesto (left) and prunes with the stilton and walnut (right). Open out each tomato and prune, so you can cover the area using less fruit. You don’t want this layer to overwhelm the others, which sun-dried tomato can easily do if you add too much.
Now brush more beaten egg around the exposed rim of the pastry bases. Roll out the other two quarters of the pastry until they’re big enough to cover the pies:
Trim around the edges to make perfectly circular top, and use the trimmings to make pastry decorations. (I went with leaves, as they’re so easy to do.) Finally, put one more fruit on the top of each pie, so you can tell when they’re done which contains sun-dried tomatoes and which contains prunes:
You’re ready to bake. I gave mine about 12 minutes at 200 degrees C, by which point they looked done.
I let them cool in their tins for five minutes. (I would have left them for longer but I was in a rush). Then I turned them out onto a wire rack, and let them cool a little longer (though again not really long enough) before cutting them.
Here’s the result:
(If I’d cooled the pie for longer before cutting, the slices would have been neater.)
And the completed pies:
I cannot overstate how delicious these are. They redefine what a pie can be.
Did I learn the lessons from last time? Mostly, I think so. I still rolled the pastry a little too thin for the base, but I got away with it. The relatively shallow enamel dishes worked better than the deep, narrow ramekins. And I got my pastry well past the edges of the dish, so that I ended up with a good seal. (The other two lessons related to ingredients that I didn’t use this time.)
Make these pies. They are delicious.