A rich creamy Lamb Pie with butter pastry crust
A lamb and green peppercorn pie you can whip up on a week night, home made crust and all? Read on…
Things have taken on a bit of a bizarre turn on Twitter. I find myself posting short stories, usually one tweet linked to another two or three. I have no true explanation for it other than they just spring out of my fingers and that the challenge to fit them in 140 characters keeps me entertained in that moment. Also, I maintain the rules as follows: no over-thinking, no editing after. This is hugely risky *assumes brave face*
I’m sure some are cringing at the silliness or lack of literary cred. I get a few (sympathy) ‘favourites’ and mostly I’m ignored. It’s like a wonderful non-judgemental canvas. Wheee!
Here’s one on carrot cake (I was eating a rather nasty slice at the time):
And in the end, of all the options, including the humiliation of being left off a vital guest list, it was the carrot cake that finished her. / A walnut got stuck in her throat. Startled, eyes stinging with tears, she coughed. In desperation, she flung her torso against the mahogany table./ It was her favourite place to have favourite people. But these days no one returned her calls. So she dined alone. On carrot cake and loneliness./ No one expects the last important encounter of one’s life to be with a walnut.
And from deadly carrot cake to a lamb pie with a killer home-made butter pastry.
I’m really glad I took on the pastry challenge after a few shoddy attempts in the past. After reading many, many recipes, I opted for this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It’s meant for a sweet filling, but I found it a little heavy for the winter fruit we have (no stone fruit and the like), so omitted the sugar and used it to make these creamy, savoury lamb pies. Makes 4 smaller pies pies or 2 large ones, double crusts.
It’s true what they say, making your own pastry turns you into a believer of sorts. It takes a bit of time – main thing is to read through everything carefully and get all your ingredients ready first. The rest is pretty simple. Making your own lamb pie from scratch is gratifying. If you make the pastry in advance, you can just defrost it a few hours before in the fridge and make this pie on a week night, like I did. I like lamb and peppercorns and green peppercorns especially, hence the combination: lamb and green peppercorn pie cooked in a creamy reduced sauce.
A lamb filling of rich, cooked down and shredded lamb with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, the seasonings used in game pies would also be nice.
Makes 4 x 15 cm or 2 x 24 cm pies diameter – shallow tart tins used
For the pie crust – this is Smitten Kitchen’s recipe
2 1/2 cups flour
1 t salt
225 grams salted butter, fridge cold
250 ml water with ice cubes
1 egg, beaten
For the filling
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 small bay leaf
1-2 T olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
450-500 g lamb cubes, sliced fairly thinly
1 T lamb fond or concentrated lamb stock (or 1/2 stock cube)
2 T butter
2 T flour (wheat or gluten free)
1/2 cup cream
1/2 -3/4 cup milk plus extra
3 T green peppercorns
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
For the pie crust
1. In a large, wide bowl add the flour, salt and stir well.
2. Cut the butter into small cubes, add to flour and work into the flour using a pastry blender. Try to avoid using your fingers, you want to keep the mixture as cold as possible. Make sure the butter is distributed well and the size of peas. Do not over mix. The butter pieces add to the ‘puff’ and gives the pastry layers.
3. Add the water (not cubes) half a cup first. Use a rubber spatula to pull the dough together. Add another 60 ml and this may be enough or add a tablespoon at a time. Make certain there are no dry or floury bits. Gather it all into one ball, making it smooth but don’t work it too much.
4. Divide into 2 or 4 balls if making smaller pies. Wrap each ball in cling film and leave in the fridge for an hour or more. You can freeze the dough- I have done this with excellent results.
5. Place on a floured surface and roll the dough out with a flour-dusted rolling pin. Roll in a circular motion, lifting and flipping the dough to ensure it doesn’t stick to the surface. Roll gently – you want the pastry to cover the bottom of the tin as well as up the sides.
6. Place the bottom layer of pastry in a well greased pie tin/s. Tuck it to fit the bottom snugly and push the dough up the sides. Cut the extra dough off the top with a sharp knife. Leave in fridge for 10 minutes – this helps prevent shrinkage.
7. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius in the mean while. Remove pie from fridge and prick the dough a few times with a fork and place a disk of baking paper onto the pastry lined tin. Add a layer of baking beans or pastry weights. Bake (this is called blind-baking) for 15 minutes at 220 degrees Celsius. Remove from oven, remove beans and baking paper.
8. Brush crust with egg wash and bake on lower rung at 180 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes or longer – this is to set the crust and prevent sogginess.
Remove from oven and leave crusts to the side. Keep disks to top the pies under a clean kitchen towel or cling film and leave in the fridge. Use scraps to make shapes if you feel a tad crafty.
For the filling:
1. In a large saucepan on medium heat add the oil, onions and bay leaf. Fry onions until soft and translucent
2. Add lamb and turn heat up, stirring. Add garlic and lamb fond or crumbled stock cube, mixing well. After 4-5 minutes (keep stirring) lower head to medium-low. You may need to do lamb in tow batches and add all back to same pan.
3. Make a ‘well’ in the centre and add butter, after 20 seconds add flour and mix into butter with a wooden spoon. Allow to cook, all the while stirring and making sure it doesn’t burn. After 2 minutes, add the cream and stir.
3. Add milk and keep stirring with wooden spoon to ensure there are no lumps, about 3 minutes. Mix well into the lamb, add the peppercorns and salt. Lower heat and cover the pan with a lid.
4. Allow lamb to cook for 40 minutes or until tender, adding more milk to the sauce if needed and adjust seasoning. The sauce should be thick and cooked down, not runny. Keep stirring every few minutes and to check if sauce is catching.
5. Add pepper, mix well and allow to cool slightly. Spoon into prepared pie case.
6. Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Cover pie with pastry top lid tucking edges into the side. I made pastry lids that just fitted over the pies. Add pastry decorations of using, gluing with egg wash. Brush surface with egg wash and bake for 20 minutes or until light golden brown. You may need to lower heat to 200 degrees Celsius. *don’t forget to place rack back to the normal position above lower rungs*