This is a subtly spiced pie to cheer even the coldest and most miserable of winter nights.
I love pie-making. In my mind I simply swap out my outfit for something made of a more primitive cloth and replace my modern plastic kitchen equipment for the earthenware pottery of centuries past to feel utterly connected to history.
Sure, the flour may be a little whiter and finer, and certainly my electric cooker is no clay oven in the town square, but the principles are the same.
Rub butter and lard into the flour, form a dough and rest. Prepare the filling, blind bake the pastry, brush with egg and bake.
I can hear the ageing cook passing down this wonderful tradition to her successor. All the appropriate inside-tips on preventing sogginess, maximising flavour and achieving a beautiful burnish to the crisp pastry top would have been modern-day-Masterchef-worthy.
Try this recipe when you’re on a budget because the use of lamb lard in the pastry is a great home economy. Or just when the call of a rich, tasty homemade pie drifting to you across the centuries just can’t be ignored.
NB: It’s best to start this recipe a day ahead so the lamb fat can cool.
100g lamb lard* (drained from cooking 1kg lamb mince for the filling)
Pinch of salt
Egg or milk for brushing
* if your lamb is not fatty enough to yield 100g of lard, just use what you get and replace the shortfall with more butter.
Rub cold, diced lard/butter into the sifted flour and salt mix with your fingertips until you have a coarse breadcrumb consistency. (Little visible lumps left in the butter are preferable.) Add enough water to bring the mixture together to form a dough. Knead quickly to a smooth ball on a lightly floured bench, split the dough in two and form two flat discs. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate till required (at least 30mins).
1 kg lamb mince
2 onions, peeled & chopped
2 carrots, peeled & chopped
1 large stalk celery, chopped
3 parsnips, peeled and chopped
Garlic cloves (6 x roasted or 3 x fresh)
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp garam marsala
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup boiling water
1 can chickpeas, drained
Fry lamb mince in batches, draining off the fat to cool and use as lard for the pastry. Set aside.
Gently fry onions, carrots and celery for 10 minutes until translucent and soft. Add garlic and cook a further 5 minutes.
Add the spices and turn the vegetables to coat in the spice mix. Move the vegetables to the sides of the pan and add tomato paste. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then stir through.
Add lamb mince and combined chicken stock and water and stir. Bring the filling to the boil, then simmer for 5-10 minutes. A few minutes towards the end of this cooking time, add the chickpeas and stir through. Remove from heat and allow to cool a little.
To put together
Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Roll out the first disc of pastry and line a pie dish with it. Blind bake 15 minutes while you roll out the other disc for the lid.
Remove blind baking material and add the filling. Lay the pastry lid over the top. Insert a pie bird into the centre of the pie, or pierce the lid a number of times with a fork to allow steam to escape while cooking.
Brush with beaten egg or milk. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot, warm or cold with a spicy chutney on the side.
Variations and Substitutions
– Replace lamb with pork or beef mince and adjust spices to your liking.
– Cook this recipe without the mince for a vegetarian option, adding a little grated cheese before putting the lid on the pie.
– Replace flour with nut flour such as walnut flour or other gluten-free flour to make the recipe gluten-free (though be sure to check that your spices are also gluten-free).
– Use any other root vegetable in place of parsnip depending on what’s available or in season (e.g kumara (sweet potato), pumpkin, swede or turnip).