With Christmas well and truly over, presents tidied neatly away and the tree starting to look a little shabby, Fanny Cradock moves swiftly onto making pies, naturally. They are simply a must for the New Year, and super for using up any old bits and bobs of scraps that happen to be left lying around after the festivities. Of course, for Fanny that means rabbits, lamb kidneys and pigeons. Things are a little different in my kitchen though, so it's chestnuts, cranberries and some spring onions for me. Not sure what Fanny would think. Fanny whizzes all her various animal parts up into a wonderful raised pie crust, so I'm sure I can too...
Fanny makes her hot water crust 'paste' with self-raising flour of course, milk, water and pure lard. She calls it English Raised Pie Paste. She gives an alternative fancier French Raised Pie Paste (Pâté à Foncer) which replaces the lard with butter, however she warns very strongly that under NO circumstances should a lard replacement be used if making the English version. She probably wouldn't approve of my vegetable fat based lard substitute Trex in that case. For probably read definitely.
Fanny mixes the water with the milk, and melts the 'lard' gently in it until it reaches boiling point. It's then flung into the sifted flour and beaten vigorously until it comes together into a smooth, thick paste. Fanny then kneads it until it is even smoother. The English version is kneaded on a wooden board, while the French demands a marble one. Not sure what the Veggie version should be, so I just use the counter. Either way it should be used immediately otherwise it will become hard and cold, just like Fanny herself, some bolder than I might suggest. Keeping it warm is key, in contrast to other pastry which must be kept cool. Fanny rolls her out on top of the cooker while the oven is on.
Fanny fills her pies with pâté and hard boiled eggs. I try to recreate the pâté by blitzing up the chestnuts, spring onions and cranberries before mixing in a perfectly ordinary egg. Fanny makes a large raised pie, but I have a lovely 'individual' baking tray thingy so I line them out with the still warm hot water paste, pop in some pâté, place half a boiled egg in the centre, pack round more pâté and seal on a lid of pastry with a little brush of milk. Obviously with a little leaf fashioned out of pastry scraps on top too. Above all garnish and presentation.
Fanny bakes her pie in a low oven for a long time, until it looks crisp and brown. My little individual ones take around 45 minutes before coming out, cooling slightly and then being unmoulded. Fanny leaves hers until the next day in the refrigerator all ready to serve to unwelcome guests popping round uninvited between festivities. The finished pies are lovely, the hot water crust is so crisp and tasty, easy to make and I am sure versatile. Many pies to come. After all, not a rabbit, pigeon or lambs liver in sight. Merry Crustmas one and all.