Saturday, 19 November 2011

Corned beef and potato suet crust pie

It's pie central round here at the moment. Last night I had a couple of friends round and baked one of my favourites for dinner. It's a great big comforting beast of a pie, simple to make and incredibly easy to eat in huge portions.

The controversial bit is this: there's only pastry on top. In most situations this is not the sort of pie I approve of. The standard and rightly criticised bowl of stew with a puff pastry lid found in many pubs is the prime example. Puff pastry is the wrong sort of crust for a meat pie and they're a pain in the arse to eat thanks to the annoying ceramic bowl they're served in.

This pie is different. Pastry made from suet is only pleasant with a nice crisp crust and the filling for this pie is very moist so if bottom and sides were present they'd be soggy, greasy and horrible. Just the lid works fine here.


I actually prefer suet dough rolled out into a thin pastry crust to the thicker puddings and dumplings where it's more commonly found. It makes pastry with a wonderful short, slightly flakey texture and a rich flavour.

The pie ought to serve six people, or four greedy people, or if you're like us three people with seconds then thirds a couple of hours later after loads of booze. Serve with either baked beans or steamed greens.

What you'll need:

1 large (340g) and 1 small (200g) tin of corned beef
1 very large onion
a large knob of butter
vegetable oil
4 large potatoes
2 carrots
half of an oxo cube
some fresh thyme and rosemary (enough for about 1 tbsp chopped)
200g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting and making a roux
100g beef suet
brown sauce
Worcestershire sauce
white pepper
salt

What to do:

1. Chop the onions then sweat them in a large pan in about 1tbsp of oil. Keep the heat down low so they don't colour. Give them a good twenty minutes so they are nice and soft.

2. While the onions are sweating chop the potatoes and carrots into large chunks and put them onto boil.

3. While the onions are sweating and the veg is boiling cut the corned beef into large chunks. Keep them quite big as you don't want the pieces to disintegrate entirely in the pie. Finely chop the thyme and rosemary, 1 tbsp of chopped herbs is about right.

4. When the potatoes and carrots are nearly done (they should still be a little bit hard as they'll be cooked further in the pie) drain them and set aside. Put the oven on at 180 degrees C.

5. The onions should now be soft and sweet. Boil the kettle, then add a knob of butter to the pan and let it melt, then stir in a heaped teaspoon of flour. Keep stirring for a minute or so to let the flour cook a bit then pour in boiling water a splash at a time stirring constantly so the sauce thickens. Add about half a pint of water in this way.

6. Add the potatoes and carrots to the sauce pan, then all of the seasonings: the chopped herbs, a large pinch of white pepper, half an oxo cube, salt and generous slugs from the brown and Worcestershire sauce bottles.

7. Add enough hot water to just cover the potatoes, bring to the boil then throw in the corned beef. Check the seasoning and add more salt, pepper and sauces as necessary. Turn off the heat and set aside.

8. Now to make the pastry. Weigh out the suet and flour into a mixing bowl. Add enough cold water to make this into a pliable dough. It should take about 5 tbsps worth.

9. Mix into a dough then roll out on a floured surface.

10. Pour the pie filling into a large pie dish, then top with the pastry. Don't worry if the filling looks too runny, it will thicken quite a lot as it bakes.

11. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, until the pastry is nice and golden.


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