Monday, 23 November 2009

A pork pie for Giles




A pork pie is a wonderful thing. But it is also complicated and can go wrong in a number of ways, because there are three elements to this: a pastry, a filling and jelly, which each come with their complications.

If you'd like to make one, I say go for it, but make sure you have an entire day - or even a day and  a half clear to attempt it - especially if it's your first go.

This recipe makes a medium-sized pork pie, using a 7in loose-bottomed cake tin from John Lewis. A similar version of this recipe can be found in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Meat book, on p.444.

You will need for the pastry:

275g plain flour
100ml water
30g diced butter
70g diced lard
1 beaten egg
3/4 teaspoon salt

1 Heat the fat and water in a saucepan until it is melted and warm - hot, even - it but don't boil it. While the fat is melting, put the flour and the salt into a mixing bowl and make a dip in the centre. Pour the egg into the dip and half mix it in with a knife. Once the fat and water have melted together, add it to the flour and mix until it is a dough. Here the dough will probably be a bit too sticky, so sprinkle on flour until it takes on that glossy sheen of pastry. Form it into a ball, cover in cling film and chill for an hour.

2 For your filling you will need:

400g pork shoulder/leg
200g streaky bacon
200g pork belly

Or similarly ratio'd quantities. Mince this finely the best way you can see how.

Do NOT - are you listening? - do NOT, NOT, NOT use only pork shoulder, or only bacon, or only belly because the result will be grim. To your pork mixture add 1/4 tsp mace (if you want), a pinch of salt, 5 twists of black pepper and a dried chilli (if you want).

2 Grease your pie dish with butter or vegetable oil. Roll out the pastry to about a 0.5cm thickness and lay as best you can in the dish. This isn't especially easy, as you're fitting a flat thing into a rounded, 3D thing. The most important thing is that the pastry doesn't tear - nothing else really matters. This is so important that I often cut my nails very short before doing it.

I always recall Delia Smith's advice about pastry when I'm making a pork pie, which is to handle the pastry "with confidence". Like horses and naughty children, pastry can smell fear.

3 Fill your pastry casing with your filling. Really ram it in, as this will shrink on cooking. Sometimes I add a whole boiled egg, hidden in the middle, if I want to freak people out.

4 Trim off any excess pastry hanging over the side of your dish and re-roll to form a lid. You must brush the edges of the pie and the lid with beaten egg to seal it. You absolutely cannot use water or milk because it won't stick properly.

5 Seal the edges of the pie and then make a blow hole in the surface of the pie, about 1cm in diameter, for the pork juices to bubble out of during cooking. Then brush the whole of the top of the pie with beaten egg.
6 Shove it in the oven for 30mins at 180 degrees and then for 1 and 1/4 hours at 160 degrees.

7 Once the pie has cooked you must allow it to cool. And I mean really cool down - ideally leave it overnight, although I know it's torture to have to wait. During cooking, the pork will have shrunk away from the sides of the pastry to form a natural cavity to be filled by the jelly.

The point of the jelly - so unbeloved by those understandably squeamish about savoury food the wobbles - would originally have been to make an airtight casing for the precious porkstuff, which would help it to keep for a couple of weeks without refrigeration.
You can make the jelly in two ways: either make up a pint of warm stock - any will do, out of a packet or whatever - and set it with powdered gelatine. I find Dr Oetker's powdered beef gelatine to be the most user-friendly. 1 x 30g sachet sets one pint of liquid - easy peasy. You will need in total about half a pint of gelatine to be on the safe side.
If you're feeling very serious, ask your butcher for some veal bones or a pig's trotter. Boil it all up for a couple of hours with some carrots and celery and the stock will turn to jelly when it sets, without needing the help of manufactured gelatine.

Pour the jelly through the hole in the top of the pie while the jelly is still warm and it will set around the pork as it cools.

This is the trickiest part of the process, so you must keep your nerve - never attempt this in a hurry. You can use a turkey baster if you've got one, or a jug and funnel. It's a pretty messy business, so don't lose heart if the stock bubbles out of your pie's blowhole and goes everywhere.

This kind of pastry is very resilient and can withstand having quite a lot of stock splashed all over it without becoming soggy. You may have to repeat the pouring-in of the jelly as after you've poured in the first lot, as it will slowly disappear into nooks and crannies of the pie and suddenly there will be a 1cm gap between the lid of the pie and the top of the pork.

Then once you think there's as much gelatine in there as you're going to get, leave this to cool again - or chill in the fridge, ideally for three or four hours.

8 comments:

  1. Great post. It sounds fantastic am inspired to try. Think it is possible to taste the seasoning by frying a small ball of the meat mixture.

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  2. Glad you got it sorted. I haven't made one for years, but the time is getting nearer, so it's great to have a bit of recent experience.

    I'd forgotten, until I read your first post, that my prejudice against slow cooking pork comes from p211 of Nigella Bites. Same problem (best pork, too). Pains me too, for the same reason.

    Joanna

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  3. I adore pork pies - but only really the crust. Don't tell my brother the pig farmer ...

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  4. Great blog - tell me, in your profile photo, is that IN-N-OUT??

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  5. It is TOTALLY at In-N-Out. Great spot! We were driving from San Francisco to Nappa and stopped off for a scoff. Or was it Nappa to San Francisco. Can't remember. But the burger was heaven.

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  6. woop woop, I just put the last of the jelly into my 3 sweet little winter pies. They're simply amazing, thank you for the recipe, I felt down after failing a batch of macaroons this weekend, but this turned out just wonderful!

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  7. I did this as a house husband. Brilliant, idiot proof designed for the whyyy chromosome. It went so fast I am having to remake and hide some from the great unwashed. Thank you.

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  8. Try this if you do nothing else!

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