Thursday 10 November 2011

Bah humbug pie

I love Christmas and everything that goes with it except for the jolly, heart-warming festive cheer that is rolled out nightly from the beginning of November on our television screens in the names of the nation’s great harbingers of Christmas (the supermarkets). I do confess to a fleeting delight in guessing which retailing giant is hiding behind which tinsel trimmed advertising campaign and I might even enjoy the whole cosy experience in mid December but by the time I am ready to deck the halls with boughs of holly the TV is off on holiday.

Enough of my twenty-first century bah-humbug – I don’t have to watch the TV – and I don’t much. As I said I love Christmas and I do like to get organised. I have already made mincemeat and it won’t be long before the cake and pudding are done. Yes made and put away and forgotten until mid December when Christmas is a go-go at our house.

The whole concept of Christmas as we know it would not be unfamiliar to Charles Dickens – the tree, the cards, the presents, the hams, the goose and all the trimmings, the pies.....but he might be shocked to discover it starts in November.... where was I? Oh yes pies....let’s not forget the pies – steak and ale, pork in cider made with suet crust, baked and served hot. The secret is to make the fillings and cook them now and freeze in pie dishes and then make the suet crust on the day, then bake and serve with golden baked potatoes and piles of fresh greens or a crisp green salad ti liven up the taste buds

Traditional Pork in cider suet crust pie, serves 8

2 large onions, chopped
1600 g shoulder of pork, cut into bite sized pieces
2 large cooking apple, peeled and chopped
300 g parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
300 g carrots, peeled and cut into rings
2 heaped teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
4 heaped tablespoons plain flour
Sunflower oil
Salt and black pepper
1 L ml cider

For the pastry

300 g self raising flour, sieved
150 g suet
2 heaped teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Salt and black pepper
6 - 9 tablespoons cold water

Equipment: 2 litre pie dish

Put a large frying pan or saucepan on medium to high heat, when hot add enough oil to cover the base of the pan then add the finely chopped onion and fry until soft and golden. Reduce the heat after a couple of minutes to avoid burning the onion.

When the onion is nicely caramelised, increase the heat again and add the pork and fry to brown – this may take some time – be patient! When the meat is nicely browned, add the apple and the vegetables, ginger, salt and pepper, thyme leaves, parsley and stir well , then stir in the flour and cook for a few minutes then reduce the heat and add enough cider to cover, stirring to create a smooth gravy. Transfer everything to a casserole dish at this stage. Cover with a lid and cook for 1 – 1.1/2 hours at 160 -180 C gas mark 3-4
Rest for half an hour or overnight as time allows

When ready to serve transfer the cooled pork to the pie dish. Put the sieved flour in a large bowl; add the suet, thyme leaves, chopped parsley, salt and black pepper. Mix and add the cold water and using the hands bring the ingredients together and roll into a neat ball. Flour the work surface, flatten the pastry and then roll out to fit the pie dish. Transfer the pastry and lay on top of the meat, sealing the edges and cook in a pre-heated oven 180 – 200 C gas mark 6 until the pastry is golden and the filling is bubbling hot – say 30 minutes.