Mini Sunday Lunch PiesPosted: August 21, 2011
Are you puzzling over the title and the suggestion of pies for Sunday lunch? Well the twist with today’s recipe is this: it’s not pies FOR Sunday lunch – its pies MADE OUT OF Sunday lunch!
Yes, if it’s not too awful a pun – it’s the return of Deja Food! *jazz hands*
I shall also be including a walk-through on making shortcrust pastry and contradicting Delia Smith, so its all go here today!
Whilst I am all in favour of time-saving and see nothing amiss with buying ready made all-butter(v. important detail) puff pastry when the need arises (rarely) – making shortcrust pastry is not difficult at all. If you can make pastry, you will have taken a major step on the way to baking independence – no longer will you need to rely on ready-made packets or cardboard posing as pre-baked pastry. Once learned, you can then start making tarts, flans, quiches, pies, turnovers, pasties, oggies, bridies, empanadas, pierogis, bierocks, strudels, samosas, puffs, piroshkis, runzas… you get the idea.
If you’re apprehensive about pastry due to disasters with pre-made pastry, where they stuck to the pan and then broke up into a crumbly mess when you tried to rescue them, then I have 2 things that might just cheer you up: a theory and a tip. My theory is that the poor quality ingredients used in ready-made pastry actually contribute to baking disasters, and is based on the following: the last such time for me (mini pies that refused to come out of the tin), I took a long hard look at the ingredients on the packet and saw that it was made with hydrogenated oil. Still needing a batch of pies, having promised them for a party, I started again and made the pastry from scratch using pure, natural ingredients (flour, butter and lard). When I took the finished pies from the oven and tipped over the tin – every single one just fell out with perfectly baked pastry crusts. So unless someone can tell me different, I’m going to stick with the natural ingredients that produce the best results, and I think you should too. The tip is to use baking parchment (a kind of belt-and-braces, can’t-be-too-careful tactic – see recipe for details).
These pies can be eaten straight from the oven, or baked and then frozen for later. They’re ideal for picnics and packed lunches – although they’re probably best eaten warm. You can also freeze them to cook later – if cooking from frozen, add about 5 minutes to the cooking time to ensure they’re fully cooked.
Shortcrust Pastry – What you need to know.
Four little words: half fat to flour.
That’s it. That’s all you need to know. Those four little words tell you the ratio of fat and flour needed to make shortcrust pastry. Whatever the total amount of fat you have, you need double that weight in flour. Armed with that little nugget of information, you have no need for any recipe and are free to make as little or as much shortcrust pastry as your heart desires, in less than a minute with the aid of a food processor.
- Flour: Use plain white – that is, with no raising agents added. Leave experimentation with flours for the moment – you want to be comfortable with the basics before getting adventurous.
- Fats: For best results, use a combination of half butter and half lard. Butter for flavour, lard for crispness. Fats should be at least fridge cold – the colder the better.
- Binding agent: Ice water. Again, the colder the better. I always have a large bottle of chilled water on hand in the fridge (not mineral water or anything nearly as posh – it’s just a large plastic bottle filled with tap water).
Controversial method: Here’s where I’m going to do what some in the UK might think of as heresy – in that I am going to contradict Delia Smith’s assertion that it is not possible to make good shortcrust pastry in a food processor. She does concede that a food processor can be used to incorporate the fat into the flour (linky), but unfortunately this is after she has recommended softening the fats to room temperature, so it’s not really the best advice – remember, cold, cold, cold is the order of the day with pastry. Delia then recommends adding the water by hand – both messy and unnecessary in my opinion. I use pastry to bake for my family 2-3 times a week (is my halo dazzling you?), and quite frankly, I have neither the time nor the inclination to faff about like this – so its into the processor – bish bash bosh – job done.
300g plain flour
- Tip the flour into the bowl of the food processor fitted with the chopping blade.
- Cut the fats into cubes and add to the flour.
- Blitz until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs (30 seconds – 1 minute)
- Bring it together with water. Now don’t just slosh it in – please use the following method to help achieve the perfect consistency. If you’re puzzled at the lack of quantity, the reason is given at the bottom of the recipe.
- Pour some ice water into a cup and put it next to the food processor.
- Get a tablespoon measure and put it next to the cup of water.
- Turn the food processor on to medium speed.
- Use the tablespoon to add water to the mixture. DO NOT pick up the cup and hold it next to the pouring funnel. Keep adding water one spoonful at a time until the pastry comes together in a lump. Why? – the delay between each spoonful of water allows time for the flour to absorb it properly, and reduces the risk of ending up with overly wet pastry. When sufficient water has been added, the mixture will come together into a solid mass. When this happens, stop the machine.
- Tip out the pastry and press it together into a ball.
- Wrap the pastry in plastic and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Now for the pies. There are no quantities given, because it very much depends on what you have available. You can make as many or as few as you like/have ingredients for. You can freeze the cooked pies – or indeed the uncooked pies – and any leftover pastry.
Sunday Lunch Pies
The remains of Sunday lunch – cold, cooked meat, vegetables, potatoes and gravy.
Frozen peas (optional)
Fresh parsley/mint/sage (optional)
1 egg, beaten
Deep cupcake/muffin tin
Suitable cutters 
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Cut parchment into 10cm squares – I suggest 12, because then you know you’ll have enough for next time, even if you don’t use them all this time.
- Remove pastry from fridge, cut in half and roll one piece out to the desired thickness. I would suggest about 3-5mm – you want them to be robust enough to hold all the filling, but not so thick as to become the main component of the pie. Cut out the bases and lids for the pies. Put each base circle of pastry on a square of parchment and stack in a pile.
- Grease your cupcake tin.
- Keeping the pastry circles on the parchment, line each cupcake hole with pastry. The parchment will keep the pastry from tearing as you press it into the sides and will make lifting the cooked pies out much easier. The pastry will fold a little on the sides (see photo) – but I think it looks nice and reinforces the ‘hand-made’ aspect. If you prefer a neater look, check out the method for making a template in the Banoffi Pie cupcake recipe here.
- Prepare the filling. Trim all fat from the cold meat and cut into small pieces, 0.5cm-1cm. Cut vegetables and potatoes to a similar size. Mix all together in a bowl. NB If you think your filling looks a bit dull, quickly zap some frozen peas in the microwave and stir in – the bright green will really raise the eye-appeal. Similarly, if you have some fresh herbs, chop those and sprinkle 2-3 tbs through (parsley for chicken, mint for lamb, sage for pork).
- Spoon the filling into the pastry cases until full.
- Warm the gravy and pour over the filling to moisten – you will only need about a tablespoon for each pie.
- Moisten the edges of the pastry with water and cover with the pastry lids. Press/pinch the edges together to seal. You can crimp the edges by hand or using the tines of a fork if you’re feeling artistic.
- Brush the tops with beaten egg and use a knife to cut a small steam vent in the centre of each pie.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes until the pastry is browned and the filling is heated through.
- Remove from the oven. Lift the pies out of the tin by holding the corners of the baking parchment. Cool on a wire rack. NB The parchment squares can be reused many times.
Cost (pastry only): £0.79 (August 2011)
 Every bag of flour has its own unique level of water content, and consequently, will absorb differing amounts of liquid. This is true not just for pastry, but for all recipes – and is also why you should not be slavish in following a recipe to the letter – use your own judgement and experience to help guide you. If you’re wailing “But I don’t have any experience!”, fear not – in this recipe the food processor will do this for you, provided you follow the method of adding water.
 You will need two different sized cutter for the tops and the bases. The cutter for the base is going to be quite large – about 10-11cm in order to give enough pastry to seal the edges. Don’t go rushing out to buy a special cutter, just have a look around your kitchen for something of the right size. Personally, I use the top of my sugar jar. The cutter for the pie lids should be about 1cm larger than the holes in your cupcake tins.
 It’s easier to work with 2 smaller pieces of pastry than one large one. You can move the pastry around easily and the chances of it tearing are greatly reduced.