Friday, 24 January 2014

Pork Pie

I love the no-nonsense character and reassuring sturdiness of a well-made pork pie; jammed full of succulent pork surrounded by a thin layer of jelly and encased in a crisp hot water crust pastry shell. Mmmmm…!

A dry pork pie is not a pleasant thing to eat, but I am very pleased with how juicy this one is. In order to achieve this, it is important not to use cuts of meat that are too lean. I used mince pork shoulder and some hand chopped belly of pork. Another great thing about these cuts of meat is that they are relatively inexpensive, which in these recessed times is no bad thing! I also included some chopped smoked streaky bacon which I think works very well as it adds a smoky sweetness to the pie.

Make sure to season the meat generously because it makes a huge difference to the finished taste. Although sage and thyme are both quite assertive herbs, I have not used them tentatively and I advise you to do the same. If you are unsure about whether you have seasoned the meat sufficiently, I would recommend heating a smidgeon of vegetable oil in a small frying pan and frying off a teaspoon of the mixture until cooked through so that you can test the taste of the mixture and adjust the seasoning if required. It goes without saying that the ingestion of raw pork products can cause illness, so do not sample any uncooked meat mixture.
 
As mentioned in my post on Cornish Pasties, I am a great fan of hot water crust pastry and this is what I use here… it really is incredibly easy to make and you don’t have to be as light handed with it as you do other types of pastry. Traditional recipes for pork pies would have used lard in the pastry, but I love the flavour and flakiness that butter gives so that’s what I use.
 
This mixture creates two sturdy pies which are 10cms in diameter and about 12cms high. The pies keep well wrapped in the fridge for up to four days. I love to serve wedges of the pie with chutney or with a piquant mustardy piccalilli, though the latter is not to everyone’s taste. To be honest, sometimes a dollop of Heinz salad cream and a little side salad is all that is needed! This really is a lovely recipe for a weekend lunch!
 

Ingredients:

400g pork shoulder minced
100g boneless pork belly, chopped by hand into small dice
100g  smoked bacon, chopped by hand into small dice
1 heaped tsp ground mace
2 tblsp fresh sage, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 tblsp of whole grain mustard, preferably flavoured with honey
4 leaves gelatine
200ml chicken stock
Salt & freshly ground pepper
Hot water crust pastry:
150g butter
220ml water
450g plain flour
½ tsp salt
To glaze:
1 egg, beaten
 

Method:

1. Mix the minced pork shoulder and the diced pork belly and smoked bacon together in a large mixing bowl. Add the ground mace, chopped herbs, mustard and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well together. If liked, heat a little oil in a small frying pan and fry off a teaspoon of the mixture, taste and check the seasoning. Adjust as necessary.  Set aside while you make the pastry.
2. Put the butter and water in a medium sized saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat. Once the butter has melted, remove from the heat. Put the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and add the water/butter mixture. Mix together quickly using a wooden spoon or your hands, but note that the mixture will be quite hot. Bring together to form a dough.
3. Turn out onto a lightly floured work-surface. Roll out the dough using a rolling pin  curt out circles large enough to line the bottom and sides of your pie tins (I used two round tins 10cms in diameter and 12cms high with removable bases). Cut out circular lids for each of your pies also. Place the pastry lined tins and the pastry lids in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up slightly.
4. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Remove the pastry from the fridge and pack the meat mixture evenly into each pie. Using a little of the egg wash brush around the top pastry edges of the pies and place the pastry lids on top encasing the meat mixture. Press the edges together. If likes, using shapes cut out of left-over pastry and use to decorate the top of the pies. Brush the tops of the pies with egg wash. Make a hole in the centre of the lid, to allow steam to escape while the pies are baking.
5. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 1¼ hours. Remove from the oven and allow cool.
To finish:
6. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 10 minutes until soft and then remove and squeeze out excess water. Heat half the stock, add the gelatine and whisk to dissolve fully. Remove from the heat (do not allow boil). Add the rest of the stock. Pour the stock slowly into the holes you made on the top of the pies. At first it will seem that the stock will not be absorbed, but if you do it slowly, you should get all/most of it in.
7. Allow the pies to cool completely and then remove from their tins and refrigerate before serving.
 
Makes 2 pies (serves 4-6).