I love pies. I do not consider the insult ‘who ate all the pies’ to be a particularly harsh one. It implies the recipient is indeed of the rotund variety. However, it also implies that this very person chose a wonderful way to get to this state of waistband. If someone said ‘who ate all the mild, tasteless cheese?’ to me, I’d be incredibly offended. I can’t think of a worse food to squander precious calories on. Pie however, well, that’s a connoisseurs way to pile on the pounds.
This is the kind of pie I’d like to think Margo from The Good Life would have called an ‘assembly pie.’ In that the pie contents don’t do much cooking once they’re in the oven. That’s done before. So it’s a high maintenance pie. Lots of prepping. It’s very good though; in the way that most pies are good. You can feel the fatty goodness clinging to your waist and thighs as you eat it. Don’t let that put you off. Just enjoy it and eat salad tomorrow.
For the pastry:
- 200g plain flour
- 75g soft lard
- 75g soft unsalted butter
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- 140mls very cold water
- 1 beaten egg for glazing and fixing the lid
For the filling:
- 8 of your favourite sausages
- 600g peeled Desiree potatoes – about 6 medium sized ones for me but depends how close to the skin you peel
- 200g peeled onions – about three medium ones for me
- 25g butter
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 1 tsp salt
For the creamy sauce:
- 140g creme fraiche
- 60mls double cream
- 40g wholegrain mustard
- lots of freshly ground black pepper
- lots more freshly ground black pepper for the layering
You need a metal pie dish for this baby. You could use a ceramic one but I can’t guarantee the puffiness of the pastry. You need said dish to heat up VERY quickly in the oven along with the pastry. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. My tin is 18cm in diameter at the base, by the way.
Make the flaky pastry first. Take the soft butter and lard, place in a bowl and beat the hell out of them with a fork until you have a creamy looking blob of fat. It needs to be well mixed. Then spread evenly over the bottom of the bowl and mark out quarters with a blunt knife.
Put the flour into a bowl and rub in one quarter of the fat you’ve just combined and marked out. Once you have a breadcrumb like consistency add the white wine vinegar and use a blunt knife to stir. Then add the water. Stir with a blunt knife until combined. The dough may be stickier than you’re used to. That’s okay. Turn the dough onto a very well floured work surface. Turn over so that the dough blob is completely covered in flour. Don’t worry about too much flour. You just brush it gently off your pastry every time you roll the dough. Don’t forget to do this.
Next, use your hands to shape the pastry into a rectangle with defined corners. Use a rolling pin to roll the pastry to about 1cm thick. The size dimensions should be roughly double the length to the width. (I use 2 hand spans by 1 hand span.) Lay it out, long side across, in front of you. Tease the corners back into place if they have disappeared. Put your hands under the pastry and allow the pastry to ‘shrink’ back a little. You don’t want the dough to have any tension and appear or feel stretched. If it does it’ll shrink in the oven and your lid won’t fit your pie!
Take your blunt knife and another quarter of the fat mixture and dot across the pastry leaving gaps in between dots. Be careful not to drag the pastry or in any way stab it. Be gentle. The fat needs to be soft to allow this. Then mentally divide the long pastry rectangle into thirds. Fold the right hand side third into the middle to meet the end of the first third. Then fold the first third over to meet the end of the second third. (If this doesn’t make sense then you may need to look on youtube. Sorry but it’s hard to describe this.) Make sure your pastry has defined corners, if not simply push and pull a little until you have right angles. Wrap your pastry block in clingfilm and place in the fridge. Set your timer/phone for 5 mins.
In the meantime grill your sausages until dark brown all over. I’d advise a dark colour as there’s nothing worse than an anaemic sausage in a pie. Leave to cool once cooked. You can also get on with peeling, slicing and cooking your onions at this point. Fry them in a pan on a lowish heat with 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp caster sugar and the butter until starting to caramelise. Then set aside to cool a little.
Take the pastry out of the fridge and with the ‘open’ side of the pastry facing you (the bit with all the folds visible) roll out onto a well floured work surface again to the same dimensions as before then pop your fingers underneath to release any tension. Repeat the fat dotting and folding, then pop into clingfilm and back in the fridge for a minimum of 5 minutes.
Put the kettle on. Peel the potatoes and slice to about 3mm thickness. You can use a mandolin but beware that when you boil the potatoes they may turn to mush in minutes. Boil the potatoes in a big saucepan for about 8 minutes or until cooked but not mushy. Drain immediately and then leave on the side.
Take the pastry from the fridge and do the same drill with the last quarter of fat. Put back in the fridge, well wrapped of course. Then start to slice your sausage. Slice into 3/4mm thick slices, lengthways. I get four out of an average sized sausage.
Make the creamy sauce by combining all the ingredients. Set aside. At this point remove the pastry from the fridge and pop it back onto the well floured work surface. Roll into a rectangle as before and fold as before but without adding any dots of fat this time. Put back into the fridge. Set the timer for 30 minutes.
Take your pie tin and start the assembly. This is the order. Don’t deviate from it please:
- 1/3 of potatoes layered on the bottom of the pie dish
- 1/3 onions on top
- 1/2 sausage slices arranged pointing from the outside rim of the dish into the middle like a wigwam
- 1/3 creamy mixture dotted over the top
- Lots of black pepper
- 1/3 of potatoes
- 1/3 onion
- 1/2 sausage
- 1/3 cream
- Lots of black pepper
- 1/3 potatoes
- 1/3 onions
- 1/3 cream
- Lots of black pepper
Then place this tin in the fridge. The filling should appear peaked in the centre in a bonfire fashion, like a proper pie should. At this point make sure there is only one rack in your oven, bang in the centre. Then preheat the oven to Gas 7. Take your egg, beat it and set aside with a brush for egg washing. You should also locate a fork, a sharp knife and also some scissors.
After the 30 mins is up, take the pastry from the fridge as well as the filled pie dish. Roll the pastry into a square (well floured work bench la la la etc) until it’s about 3cm wider and taller than the edges of the pie dish. Then cut off two sides of the square producing two long strips about 1.5cm wide. Egg wash the rim of the tin and fix these strips onto it. You want the whole rim to be covered. Then egg wash the strips please.
Now check the remaining pastry square is at least 2.5cm wider and longer than the tin by hovering the tin above the pastry gently and checking by eye. If you’re happy then gently fold the pastry into quarters. (Don’t press it into quarters. This is for ease of moving the pastry.) If not happy with the size, roll until you are. Don’t go mad though and roll too thin or your pastry won’t do its flaky thing.
Take your square folded pastry and place gently over the pie dish with the innermost corner in the centre. Then unfold, gently. Do not stretch the pastry at all. In fact, try to release some tension by pushing the pastry into the middle. Then press the pastry gently onto the pastry rim. Trim the pastry about 0.5cm larger than the edge of the pie tin using scissors. Try not to drag the pastry at all. Then dip your fork into the remaining flour on the work bench and use it to indent around the rim of the tin. Keep re-flouring your fork to stop any dragging.
Nearly there… take a blunt knife and ‘knock up’ (stop sniggering) the edges of the pastry. Basically you’re using the knife to fluff up the pastry of the rim and the lid until they are fluffed up together, meaning they don’t come apart when baking. Also meaning the side of the pie has a nice thick layered appearance. Then just egg wash the whole pie really well and then cut a cross in the top to allow any steam to escape and ensure a really crisp and flaky lid. Pop in the oven for 20 mins, then turn the heat down to Gas 4 and bake for another hour. Serve with green beans/peas/baked beans or whatever else does it for you.