Recipe: Shortcrust Pastry for National Pie Week

 photo IMAG1026_zpsycplbblv.jpgIt’s national Pie Week this week (as I found out walking into Tesco’s to shelves of special buy pastry) and I couldn’t be more excited. I love pies, they form some of my favourite meals. They are just so filling, so versatile, and also pretty quick to make – they freeze really well, so whether you make your own or buy them in you can just throw one in the oven, then come back in a hour and cook some veg. Delicious meal with very little effort.

I prefer to make my own pie (although the Chicken & Ham Pie from the butchers nearby is hard to beat!) filling and then top with ready-rolled puff pastry. I’ve never had the time to make puff pastry from scratch, although I aim to give rough puff a go in the next few weeks. I can, however, make a pretty decent shortcrust. As most students will know, I suffer from a lack of freezer space and often its impossible to freeze fully made-up pies. Its easier and more space-efficient to spoon the filling into a bag, seal, and squeeze in the tiny gaps available. When I do this I really need to make my own pastry, and that’s where this recipe comes in!

I’ve managed to devise the perfect amount to cover my ‘individual pie dish’ – ie the smallest rectangle dish Le Creuset make (I buy mine discounted – and couldn’t recommend the brand enough!). It covers the filling, and leaves just enough to double round the edges to make a thicker, crunchier crust. Not only this but it is extremely quick to make (I can make it in five minutes, before a 9am lectures, then just roll out, cover and bake when I get in) but it is relatively flaky and buttery, and extremely flavoursome from the seasoning. Not quite as good as puff pastry, but a good second-best!

Pastry Ingredients (for a big one-person pie – I am greedy, and I also like lots of pie and no other carbs!)

  • 25g butter
  • 50g flour
  • Seasoning
  • Ice-cold water

How to Make Pastry (also, it’s easy to double/triple/quadruple the quantities if you’re feeding more than yourself – just keep the ratio of half-fat-to-flour!)

Add the flour to a mixing bowl, and season well. My preferred seasoning is a little salt, plenty of ground pepper and a little dried thyme. Tip the butter into the flour. The butter should be cubed, and straight from the fridge.

 photo 2014-03-05100024_zpsf5da3c2c.jpgRub the butter into the flour with your fingers until  its all breadcrumby. No, that’s not a word, but its a good description of what you’re aiming for!

 photo 2014-03-05100357_zpsc69ecc89.jpgNow get some cold water in a glass, and add a drop at a tip to the mix. Stir vigorously with a knife to combine, and only add enough water so that the pastry just comes together.

 photo 2014-03-05100651_zps24e1fe4c.jpgTip the pastry onto clingfilm, and put in the fridge for at least an hour, or until its nearly dinner time! Then you want to roll it out until it’s about the thickness of a £1 coin.

 photo 2014-03-05182806_zpsca95a734.jpgTypically the day I make this pastry for photographing is the day it fails and decides to stick to my marble surface, and then sink into my pie filling. It was still lovely and crisp though!

 photo 2014-03-05192706_zpsb5cad7ba.jpgYou want to bake your pie for about 45 minutes at 180C, until it’s crisp and golden. Brush with melted butter, milk or egg if you want it shiny, though I don’t usually bother.

This pie filling was something quick I knocked up – I sweated down an onion and some garlic, added chicken breast and sealed, then fried some mushrooms off. I then added half (soya) cream and half chicken stock, some lemon juice and seasoning, then simmered for a bit. I find this kind of sauce freezes really well and is so adaptable!

So that’s how to make my version of a simple shortcrust pastry. Let me know if you try it out! Its also a pretty cheap recipe too – far cheaper than buying ready made pastry.

What’s your favourite type of pie?