Sausage Pie

I bought a tube of good sausagemeat at the farmers' market on Thursday. Today I spread it in the bottom of a square baking dish (it came out about a quarter inch thick). Then I topped it with some slabs of mature cheddar, and spread those with wholegrain mustard. I had a tin of pear halves hanging about, so I put a half a pear in each corner of the dish. Topped the whole lot with a square of ready rolled puff pastry, and baked at gas mark 7 for 40 minutes.

We ate all of it, with some peas, but with some more forethought and some potatoes and other veg, it would have easily served four.

I've been thinking of variations –

  • cheese and branston pickle
  • a layer of braised red cabbage, maybe with chestnuts
  • apple sauce or chunks of apple instead of the pear
  • cranberries
  • a chunky tomato sauce
  • hard boiled eggs
  • apricots / dried fruit and maybe some curry powder
  • blue cheese and braised celery or chicory

all of them easy to do, easy to make in advance, cheap, filling and tasty.

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Chocolate Pecan Pie

I wanted to do a pecan pie as well as a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, but it proved difficult to get corn syrup round here, and the texture of the filling just isn't right without it. I found several recipes on the internet for a chocolate filling with pecans on the top, and eventually settled on this one. I modified it a bit, mainly because I didn't want to get a whole bottle of bourbon, and we ran into the problem of the UK commercial raw pastry shells being a bit shallow again.

1 9-inch unbaked pie shell
1 cup sugar (I used muscovado)
3 tbsp. cornflour
3 eggs
1/2 cup condensed milk
2 tbsp. rum
6 oz. plain chocolate, melted
4 tbsp. butter, melted
1 1/2 cup pecans

Mix together sugar and cornflour in large bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, mix. Add condensed milk, rum, chocolate, and butter. Mix well.

Pour into pie shell (it was just a bit too much filling, but not enough to make a second pie). Add the pecans in a circular design on top of pie. Bake for 45 minutes at Gas Mark 5.

It puffed up incredibly in the oven, and shrank considerably on cooling. I was expecting something a bit more custardy, it came out like a very rich and gooey brownie in a pastry shell, with pecans on the top. The pecans scorched a bit, you could easily have put chopped pecans in the bottom or just stirred them through the mix.

I suspect that if you let the mixture set instead of cooking it, you would have a very tolerable chocolate mousse-type thing.

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Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie

As part of my 70s retro Thanksgiving, I decided to get most of my recipes from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. I have a copy of the 1976 edition, which I bought in the early 80s. When push came to shove on the Pumpkin Pie, though, I went with the recipe on the can of pumpkin. How traditional is that? I don't like to buy Libby's brand, because its Nestle, but it's pretty much the only one you can get in the UK. So, here it is, translated.

Start with an unbaked pastry pie-shell. Most of the standard UK pre-bought ones are shallow, if you're using those you'll need two for this quantity of filling. Otherwise make your favourite pastry in a 9" diameter deep flan tin, with a removable bottom. I then put mine on a metal tray, just to make it easier moving it about.

To each 15 oz can of pumpkin, you'll need:

3/4 cup (about 6 oz) sugar (I used a light brown)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (12 fl oz) evaporated milk (I found a light version)

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7.

Mix the sugar and seasonings. Beat the eggs, add the pumpkin and sugar mix. Beat well, and gradually add the milk until you have a smooth custard. Pour into the pie shells. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce to Gas Mark 4. Bake for 20-30 minutes more for shallow pies, or 40-50 minutes for the deeper ones, until a skewer comes out clean.

You can eat it warm, but I like it better if you chill it until the next day, it firms up better. Cream and / or ice-cream – I have some good quality vanilla ice-cream for tomorrow. They do warn you not to freeze the pie as it will separate.

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Hogswatch Pork Pie

I wanted a giant pork pie for Hogswatch, and I've amalgamated ideas from various different recipes. The main starting point for the mixture was Glynn Christian's Basic Pork Pie from Pies, Pates and Terrines from Sainsbury's, plus some additions from the Artery-Hardening Hogswatch Pie in the Nanny Ogg Cookbook. And what felt good at the time.

I mixed:

  • 1.5 kg pork mince
  • 1 Bramley apple, peel on, coarsely grated
  • 1 onion, finely chopped, about 6 oz weight
  • 3 capfuls brandy
  • 0.25 pint white wine
  • 2 fl oz manzanilla
  • 1 tsp each dried sage, allspice, nutmeg, and black pepper
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 2 heaped dessertspoons wholegrain mustard

I made a hot water pastry crust with 24 oz flour, 2 tsps salt, 250 gms lard, and a quarter pint water. I took 400 gms fancy chipolatas, with honey and rosemary, and twisted them in half – cocktail sausages.

In a 9" springform cake tin, I put three-quarters of the pastry, then half the main mix, then a layer of sausages, then the rest of the mix, and put the rest of the crust on top, leaving a central hole for breathing and addiing jelly later.

It's currently in a Gas Mark 6 oven for half an hour. Looking at the weight of meat, I think after that it'll get 2.5 hours at Gas Mark 3-4. After an hour at the lower temperature, it'll get glazed with an egg-wash.

I haven't decided on the jelly, but I think a mixture of white wine and Calvados for the liquid. It was a very wet mix, it'll probably shrink quite a bit, so I'll make well over a pint of jelly. The 12 oz I made for the game pie the other week wasn't nearly enough.

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Christmas Game Pie

I often make a big raised pie for Christmas, usually following a Glynn Christian recipe. He did two Sainsbury's books, Pies, Pates and Terrines is one, and there's a Christmas one as well. There's a very good recipe for Pheasant and Caramelised Chestnut Pie in the Christmas one, but this year I started out with the Pheasant, Port and Walnut one from the PPT book. Now there were some problems with this, number one was that this pie will last through until Hogswatch and we've got a non-nut person coming. Number two was that when I went to get the main ingredients, there was no pheasant to be had, not even for ready money. I bought two wood pigeons instead, but before I got around to making the pie, I found a pack of pheasant thigh fillets and a pack of game casserole meat (all birds, no venison), and I used that instead. So, this is what I actually did, as opposed to what the recipe said.


Cut a pack of pheasant meat (thighs in this case, but breast would be good) into smallish strips and marinate in a good sprinkling of port for about half an hour. Preheat oven to Gas Mark 6.

Mince a pack of game bird meat with about 4 oz of streaky bacon, half a bunch of lemon thyme leaves, a teaspoon of dried thyme and a goodly amount of fresh ground allspice.

Mix with 1 lb minced pork and 1 lb minced veal, some more port to dampen it, and probably some salt.

Make a hot water pastry by boiling half a pint of water with half a pound of lard and a bit of salt. Pour into a well in 24 oz sifted plain flour. Mix with a knife until it comes together and is just cool enough to handle, knead it quickly. Take three-quarters of it, leave the rest in the bowl and cover it to keep it warm.

Use the big lump of pastry to line a 9" deep cake tin with a removable bottom. You don't need to roll it out, treat it like PlayDoh. Just work fast so it doesn't seize up, and make sure to get your knuckles well into the bottom around the sides so you don't get a huge wodge of pastry. And no holes! Get it as far up the sides as you can, with a little overhang if poss.

Put half the minced meat mix in the pastry case. Top with a couple of handfuls of dried blueberries, layer in the pheasant meat chunks and dribble the port on top. Cover with the rest of the mince.

Take the smaller lump of pastry and pat it about in your hands into a rough circle (like the pizza guys do). Lay it on top of the pie and push it around until you have a sealed lid. Crimp it well with the overhang from the pastry lining, to make sure you don't get cracks. Mark a cross with a sharp knife in the middle of the top, and fold the pastry corners back in little triangles, to expose the centre of the pie in about a 2" circle. Put the tin on a baking tray.

Bake at Gas Mark 6 for half an hour, then Gas Mark 3 for 2 and a half hours. After an hour at the lower temperature, brush the top with beaten egg to glaze it.

The next day when it is cool, run a sharp knife gently just under the pastry around the central hole, to loosen any stuck bits and make a clear entrance to the pie.

Soak 4 leaves of gelatine in a few spoonsful of cold water. When it is soft, put into a measuring jug and add about 4 fl oz boiling water, and some chicken stock concentrate. Stir well to dissolve, and make up to 12 fl oz in total with a mixture of port and boiling water, depending on how much port you have. I used mostly port …

Pour the jelly slowly but surely into the pie through the hole at the top. This pie sucked in all of it instantly, I've had ones in the past that needed to settle a bit between pourings.

So I might plump up some dried blueberries in port, and fill the hole at the top with them tossed in some thicker jelly, when it finally comes to serve it.

Wrap the whole thing up in foil and put in the fridge for up to a week to mature before taking out of the tin and slicing. (If you need the tin for something else in the meantime, you can take it out of the tin once the jelly is well set, and wrap it up again.)

I've got a nasty feeling this one is going to be quite dry, with not enough fat in the meat and the amount of jelly it took (sign of shrinkage, maybe?). We shall see …

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