There’s nothing quite as comforting as a hearty homemade pie for warding off winter blues. And making your own pastry need not be a chore.
A food processor is a bonus. However, if you don’t have one when making short pastry, grate the butter into the flour then rub it in lightly with your fingertips.
Keep everything as cool as possible during pastry preparation — your hands, bench surfaces, utensils and ingredients.
Pastry should be rolled with short, sharp strokes starting from the centre and rolling in a forward direction, maintaining a light, even pressure. Turn the pastry as necessary — but not the rolling pin. Use as little flour as possible on the bench as too much can make the pastry hard. I like to roll out pastry between two sheets of baking or waxed paper.
Let the unbaked pastry shell rest in the refrigerator to solidify the fat. This prevents it oozing out during cooking.
To help cook the pastry base, pre-heat an oven tray and place the pie on this. Metal pie pans tend to bake and colour the pastry more evenly.
BEST BUTTER PASTRY
A great short pastry for savoury or sweet pies.
2 1/2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
250g butter, chilled and cubed
1/2 cup icy water
Place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and mix until well combined. Add the butter a little at a time and mix until it is absorbed. With the motor running, drizzle in enough water until the dough forms a ball.
Knead lightly and briefly on a floured surface then flatten into a 3cm disc. Wrap in film and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 5 days.
KIWI STEAK PIES
I used 4 x 10cm mini loose-based cake pans to make these pies. One large pie can be made, if preferred. For extra flavour, add a little chopped bacon or grated cheese.
400-500g stewing steak, cut into 2cm cubes
1 tablespoon each: flour, paprika, dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper to taste
100g mushrooms, sliced
400g can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 x recipe Best Butter Pastry
beaten egg or milk to glaze
Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Toss the meat with the flour and seasonings. Place in a casserole. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes and tomato paste. Cover and cook for 2 hours. Cool.
To make the pies, preheat the oven to 200°C. Place an oven tray in the oven on the bottom rung to heat. Lightly butter the pie pans.
Lightly roll out the pastry to a 5mm thickness. Cut into 4 x 18cm rounds. Lightly press onto the base and sides of the pie pans. Trim. Roll out the remaining pastry. Cut into 4 x 14cm rounds.
Place the cold meat mixture into the pastry lined pans. Cover with the pastry tops folding the overhanging edge inwards. Press the pastry to make an attractive edge. Make a small slit in the centre.
Brush with egg or milk. Bake for 20 minutes on the baking tray then shift to the centre of the oven and continue baking for another 15 minutes or until golden and cooked. Makes 4 pies.
GLUTEN-FREE SHORTCRUST PASTRY
This is an excellent pastry for a dessert such as the Lemon Tart following.
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
125g butter, chilled and cubed
finely grated rind 2 lemons
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-3 tablespoons icy water
Place the flour, icing sugar and salt in a food processor. Mix until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the lemon rind and egg, blend briefly then add enough icy water so the mixture forms a ball.
Pat the pastry into a disc, wrap in film and chill for at least 30 minutes. Makes enough to line a 23-25cm flan pan.
1 x GF Shortcrust Pastry recipe
1/2 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup cream
1/2 cup strained lemon juice
Roll out the pastry between two sheets of baking paper to a 5-7mm thickness. Lightly grease a 23-25cm flan pan. Line the pan with the pastry. Run a sharp knife around the rim and trim away any excess pastry. Use to patch any holes in the pastry. Gently press your fingers around the edges of the pastry to ensure it remains firm against the sides. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Line the pastry with greased foil lightly pressing it on to the flan. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the foil and continue baking for another 15 minutes, until golden. Cool a little.
To make the filling, beat the eggs and caster sugar in a bowl until frothy and the sugar begins to dissolve. Beat in the cream until just mixed then beat in the lemon juice.
Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C. Pour the filling into the cooled pastry shell. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the filling is set. Cool then refrigerate. Serves 8.