the simple secret to perfect pies

pies-6 pies-2

I’m not afraid to admit it. You see I’ve been a pastry snob pretty much all my life. Not only that, I’ve been a pie snob as well.

I grew up in a house with my mum making her pastry from scratch. I’m sure the thought of using frozen pastry never crossed her mind. So without really thinking about it, I was determined to always be a home made pastry gal. Like my philosophy on packet cake mixes, I wasn’t going to ‘lower my standards’.

Some may see it as a little extreme but I’ve always believed that the perfect pie had a short crust base and puff pastry lid. And to be honest I’ve tended to avoid pot pies like, well something to avoid. I always felt that they were a cheats version that robbed everyone of the goodness of the crisp pastry base.

But the other day I found myself with a craving for pies, and no pie tins to bake them in. So rather than go pie-less, I opted for a ramekin-based pot pie. And to my surprise with my generous home made puff pastry topping, I was completely satisfied. And better still avoided that pastry-overdose feeling that usually accompanies a pie eating session.

Then a few weeks later, I decided to roll out my new favourite pot pies for a dinner with some mates. I found myself with enough home made puff pastry for 4 pies and 6 people to feed. Without the luxury of time, frozen pastry was the only option. But I decided to try something different and make a double layer of the frozen stuff, to see how it would stack up.

And the results?

While I could tell the difference, none of my guests passed comment. And the first person to compliment the pastry was one eating the supermarket pastry pie. Who would have thought?

So there you have it. The secret to perfect pies is to use two layers of store bought pastry, joined together with a little egg wash. The other secret, is to trim the edges so you get fresh pastry exposed which is more likely to puff up energetically.

And one more – I find that it’s better if you overcook the pastry a little to avoid any gummy under layers. So when you think the pies look done, leave them in for another 5 minutes or so.

The perfect accompaniment to last week’s cold oil potato chips.

pies-3

[5 ingredients]
eggplant (aubergine) & tomato pies

serves 6

These are a brilliant vegetarian pie, and I’m pretty sure they’d satisfy most hardened carnivores. But if you’re in the mood for meat, you could add some bacon, or chorizo or a hearty pork & fennel sausage. Or ditch the eggplant and replace it will some ground beef or lamb for a more traditional meat pie filling.

Actually any of your favourite stew or casserole recipes would make a good pie. So feel free to experiment.

2 medium eggplant (approx 1kg / 2lb), cut into cubes (2.5cm / 1in)
2 large brown onions, peeled & chopped
2 cans tomatoes (400g / 14oz)
3 sheets frozen puff pastry
1 egg

Preheat oven to 200C (400F). In a large baking tray, toss eggplant with a generous drizzle of olive oil and season. Bake for 1 -1 1/2 hours or until eggplant is very soft.

Meanwhile cook onions in a little oil in a large frying pan until very soft and slightly golden in colour. Add tomatoes and their juice and simmer for approx 20 minutes or until the sauce has reduced down to a nice pie consistency – like chutney.

Toss eggplant through the sauce and cook for another 10 minutes or so.

Increase oven temp to 200C (450F). Divide filling between 6 one cup capacity ramekins, tea cups or other little bowls.

Whisk egg with 1 tablespoon water. Cut each pastry sheet into 4 squares. Brush half the squares with the egg. Place an egg free square on top of an eggy square and repeat so you end up with 6 lids. Trim each square so there is fresh pastry exposed. Brush the tops with more egg wash and cut a little steam hole ‘X’ in the top of each pie.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the pastry is a deep brown colour.

pies-4

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