It’s National Pie Week!*

* who knew there was such a thing?

I never knew my Scottish grandparents as they had died before I was born, but was very close to my English mum’s parents who lived near Barrow-in-Furness.  Every summer, my mum, brother and I took the train from the Glasgow to Lancaster, then a small one from there to Roose where granny met us, walking home to her house where we would spend most of the summer holidays.  I adored Granny, even more so as we only saw her at Easter and July.  She was a pastry chef and baker and made the most wonderful cakes and pies.  One of her “specials” was meat and potato pie – and it turns  out The Husband’s grandma was also the maker of meat and potato pies! Thus, this special pie is definitely one of our favourite comfort dinners – particularly on cold and raw days.  It’s taken me a while to experiment with the pastry but I think this is it.

Meat and Potato Pie (I’ve scaled down the recipe for 2 – but it will taste good tomorrow with pickles and mustard)

  • 250 grams stewing steak
  • 2 – 3 potatoes and 1 chopped onion
  • 110g Self raising flour
  • 40 grams suet
  • 30 grams chilled butter

Braise the meat till tender in some stock (oxo)on top of the hob. Boil the potatoes and onions till soft. Drain, keeping the water to thicken for gravy with the meat juice.  Put the meat, potato and onion into a pie dish. Make up the gravy with the vegetable and meat water with granules till thick, pour over and allow to cool. Measure the flour and suet into a bowl.  Grate in the butter and rub together.  Make the pastry adding a little water to come together.  Roll out on a floured board and cover the meat mixture in the dish.  Score a cross in the top and pop in a hot oven (about 200oC) and bake till golden brown.  Serve with green vegetables and mustard.  Guaranteed to fill you up and keep out the cold!

For a sweet pie, I am turning to a recipe I was given years ago by the wife of “Our Man in Paris” who lived there in the 1930’s and had now retired to the village where I lived. I’ve had it for over 40 years and have never needed any other as it just works – so why try to tinker with perfection?

Rhubarb Meringue Tarts (using my lovely rhubarb from the garden)

  • Pastry: 275g plain flour 25g ground almonds 175g butter
  • 75g castor sugar rind of 1/2 lemon 1 egg yolk 3 tablespoons milk**
  • 2 free-range eggs, separated
  • 350g rhubarb, cut into 2cm/¾in chunks
  • 85g castor sugar
  • 1 small lemon, juice and zest
  • 2 1/2tbsp cornflour
  • 2 tbsp water

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. To make pastry, rub the butter into the dry ingredients. Add the beaten egg yolk and milk and bring together. Turn out onto a floured board and quickly roll* out to line a small (or 2 individual) greased flan tins. Prick the base of the pastry with a fork. Line the pastry with greaseproof paper, fill with baking beans and bake blind for 10 minutes. Remove the greaseproof paper and baking beans and brush with a little milk. Return the tins to the oven and bake for a further 15 minutes until golden brown. Place the rhubarb, 3 tablespoons of the sugar and the lemon juice and zest in a pan. Cover and cook over a low heat until the rhubarb has softened. Mix the cornflour and water in a bowl to form a smooth paste. Stir into the rhubarb, bring to a boil and stir until thick. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the two egg yolks. Use a ladle to pour the mixture into the baked pastry cases. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until they form stiff peaks. Gradually add the remaining sugar, whisking between each addition. Spoon the meringue over the fruit filling and bake for about 20 minutes or until the meringue is golden-brown.

*the less and quicker you handle pastry the better – try and keep a cool hand!

**this recipe will give you more pastry than you will need but I tend to make a batch and freeze the remainder for another time.

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