Tuesday, 29 January 2013

I Like Pie

No, I love pie. But I'm going to disappoint my North American readers. When I think/talk about pie, I mean meat pie.

I grew up on meat pies. England is known for them of course. You can buy them in fish and chips shops, frozen, in a can (yes, a can), or fresh and ready to eat (or re-heat). There are even stores that specialize in them.

My favourite is steak & kidney. It's world famous, I think, and often cited as a weird English food, but I can't help that, I love it. If you don't like kidney, you can have just steak, or steak and mushroom. (Can I just add at this point that if you call it "Kidney Pie" as I've heard a number of North Americans do, you look foolish).

Unfortunately in Canada there is no such thing as edible ready-made pies, commercially. You can buy frozen pies, but they are:

b) They always have vegetables in.

Not that I have anything fundamentally against a meat-and-vegetable-pie, but for pity's sake, it should be optional.

Anyway, the only way to buy a pre-made steak and kidney pie in Canada is from a small European specialist baker or market seller, or online - yep, the canned ones. Canned pies are not as bad as they sound. They are infinitely better than the frozen supermarket ones, at least. Well, anything is.

But, take my advice, bake one yourself. It's good, hearty peasant food. And you can make the filling anything you damn well please.

Pastry is not an arcane art. Seriously. If I can do it anyone can. Use lard, and follow this recipe:

(This is straight off the Tenderflake tub)

5 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp salt
2 1/3 cups lard
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 cup water
1 egg

(The following instructions are MINE)

Rub dry ingredients/lard in together, until fine. Use your hands. Forget any silly idea about forks, knives, or dough hooks. Add wet ingredients (mixed together), gather together and roll out on a well floured surface. Don't knead it. I shouldn't have to say that but I will just in case.

Better yet, teach your kids to do it. I taught Tom. He makes fantastic pastry.

This is enough for 4 pies (8" round, tops and bottoms). If you only need 1 or 2, freeze the other pie cases ready for next time.


For steak(+), sauté cubes of meat* and diced onion in a little oil until meat is browned and onion soft. Add black pepper, thyme, parsley, and anything else you like, and enough beef stock to cover**. Simmer until tender. Thicken with  flour at the end, to make gravy.

For chicken, you can use a similar method, so that the filling is a type of chicken stew, but I don't like stewed chicken, AND this is a good use of pre-cooked leftovers, so I simply sauté diced roast chicken with onion, and create the gravy immediately.

*Mushrooms can be added along with the onion. If you want to add other veggies, add them at the appropriate point, i.e. if they need sautéeing first, add them with the onion, if not, add them with the stock, or if you are adding fast cooking veggies, add them later.

Fill pie case, add and seal top, brush with egg and bake at 200C/400F until golden. Serve with mashed or baked potatoes, or fries, and cooked veggies such as peas, carrots, corn, green beans etc.

**I also recommend making more gravy than you need for the pie so that some can be served separately. It is possible to buy a brand of acceptable instant gravy in Canada (Bisto granules) but it's really NOT as good as home-made, it's expensive, and it's really not necessary when you are making real gravy anyway. I am told that Americans can buy good ready-made gravy commercially. Lucky them.



  1. I love pies and make lots never seen vinegar before? Doe it have a job to do in there? Have I missed something all these years. PS I am good at pastry.

    1. It has a magical effect on the pastry. Chemical reaction.

  2. My Uncle Henry used to make a meat pie of pork, beef and moose. Didn't taste gamey, either. He'd brown the onion and meat, add liquid and let it simmer on the wood stove for 3 days. Thicken it and put it in the shell. By the time it was done baking, the gravy was *almost* gone...just enough to keep everything very moist without it being messy to serve.

    I miss his meat pies almost as much as I miss him. :-)

    1. I'm going to tell you a secret. I have never had a pie, or any stew, or any meat dish, that has more than one type of meat in it. I haven't been avoiding it, just never came across it, and just the other day Martin was reading something online and asked me "Why would you have two types of meat in together?". I thought for a few moments and offered "Because that's what you have?". These things don't really have explanations anymore, it's recipe history stuff.

    2. Well...in this case, the beef takes away the gamey flavour that can happen with moose or deer. Pork just adds a bit of fat..moose tends to be fairly dry.
      The three blended together is heaven..you still taste the moose meat, but it's a subtle flavour, not in your face. It has the pork fat which helps it to stay moist without being really greasy. His ratio was usually 2 parts moose to one part beef and pork mixed together. So for 2 pounds moose, he's use 1/2 pound each pork and beef. With that he'd have onion, salt, pepper, and a bit of garlic. Not a lot..just enough to give a light flavour of it. That was it.

    3. I didn't find the moose I had gamey, and in fact the friend who gave it to us promised it wouldn't be, but it had an odd taste which I didn't enjoy. I think, truthfully, it was just DIFFERENT. I don't believe this idea that that you won't like something you didn't grow up with (I was 48 when I first tasted Mahi-Mahi and it was love at first bite!) but there is something in unfamiliarity which affects taste. I mean....I'm never shocked when people don't like kidney, if they didn't grow up with it.

      Really, all you can ever do is try something.

  3. I love pie as well. Any kind of pie. I could eat an entire pie myself I love them so much. Not steak and kidney pie though....although that is a favourite of Tom's. And I do like mine with vegetables.

  4. Oh and yes...you are correct, bought pies are awful. I make my own.

  5. That sounds good without the pie crust.

    1. Yeah you could leave it off if you want to:)

  6. I really am going to have to over come this block I have with my pie crusts. I'm positive I over work it, and even when I barely work it at all, it's over worked. I'll just have to keep practicing.

    1. Yes, overworking it is definitely going to toughen it up. I honestly believe in such a thing as pastry-making hands though. My mother-in-law makes fantastic pastry and Tom seems to have inherited those hands. When I make it, it's not as good, but it's adequate. I'm a great fan of this recipe, I've tried others and this is superior.