It was Nigel Slater who said A pie teases us, with only a hint of what is to come under its golden crust. And there is the dilemma. What is inside the pie? I am like the fair weather sailor, only venturing on board if a calm, sunny day bids. It's the same with pies. I want to know what I'm getting before I embark on the tasting.
The easiest remedy then is to make my own so I know exactly what lurks under the golden crust. So I did. I even went as far as making my own puff pastry which was not my initial intent but I am so glad I did. If you're not in a rush, give it a go. It is at once therapeutic and satisfying (more so when it turns out fine).
When I made this some weeks ago it seemed appropriate for the weather, at times tempting with hints of summer, then blowing cold and rainy. I opted to stay in the kitchen, keeping warm. For most of the day I baked - Afghan biscuits first (see previous post), then this pie (well, there were three individual ones actually). In the process I attempted to improve my flour dusting and rolling pin techniques so that with one expert flick of the hand the board would be evenly and finely dusted and a few rolls of the pin and the pastry would be straight and even. Ah well, that was the idea but I have a long way to go...
Individual Mince & Cheese Pies
There's a lot of chilling and resting so make sure you read the recipe through and allow plenty of time.
Homemade rough puff pastry (or use shop-bought)makes about 3-4 pies depending on your individual tin size
250g high grade plain flour
1 tsp salt
250g butter, at room temperature
approx 150ml cold water
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Roughly chop the butter into small chunks and rub loosely but not completely into the flour - you should still be able to see bits of butter.
Make a well in the bowl and pour in about two-thirds of the cold water. Mix until you have a firm dough. Cover with cling film, transfer to the fridge for 20 minutes.
Place the dough on a lightly floured board. Knead gently and shape into a rectangle. Roll in one direction only, keeping the edges straight, until the rectangle is about 20 x 50 cm. You should still be able to see butter streaks in the pastry. From the long end, fold the pastry into three (fold the top third down to the centre, then the bottom third up and over that). Cover with cling film and chill for 20 minutes. Repeat the rolling out, folding and chilling 3 times. Each time you roll, give the dough a quarter turn and roll out to the same size as before. Chill before using in the main recipe.
Filling1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500g lean beef mince
20g (2 tbsp) plain flour
1 beef stock cube mixed in 3/4 cup hot water
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tbsp Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp each each of dried basil and oregano
salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
200g Tasty (strong cheddar) cheese, grated
1 egg (for egg wash) + 2 tbsp water
Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan and saute the onion and garlic gently for about 5 minutes until onion is translucent. Add the mince and cook until well browned, using a fork to break down any lumps. Stir in the flour and cook for about a minute. Add the beef stock and bring to the boil. Add the tomato paste, Lea & Perrins, balsamic vinegar, dried herbs and salt and pepper. Lower the heat and simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat. Stir in the fresh thyme leaves and leave to cool.
When you are ready to assemble and eat, roll out the pastry to approximately 4mm thick and cut to the size of the tin(s) you are using. You will need pastry to cover the base of the tin and a pastry lid. I used Texan muffin trays which were perfect for single serve pies. I used a small saucer as a template circle for the base and smaller circles for the lid.
Lightly grease the tins and line with the pastry base. Fill the pastry almost to the top with the mince mixture then add a small handful of the cheese.
Brush the edge of the pastry with water and place the pastry lid on top. Seal the edges, trimming off any excess pastry.
Whisk egg and 2 tbsp water together and brush over the pastry. Rest for 1 hour before baking. It was cold so I just left mine on the benchtop. If it's too hot in the kitchen, place them in the fridge to rest.
Preheat oven to 220 degrees C. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown in colour. Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool a little bit before eating.